Entry 296: Watch What Doesn’t Happen

Well, clearly, Scandinavia is out to take over the world. Or end it.

Their scheme began by attempting to infiltrate our infrastructure with incompetently-assembled furniture from Sweden. Or maybe that was just the plan for taking over my house.

Then, as reported recently in this very blog, they’re plotting to perpetrate our passing by propagating populations of plastic people from Denmark.

But now they’ve gone too far.

TheLittleCouple[1]According to an article in The New York Post (motto: “And thousands died today when…oh, look, a girl in a bikini.”) the U.S. production company that gave us a reality show about newly-wed dwarves has purchased the rights to import a television format from Norway called “Slow TV.”

In this thrilling new type of programming, a stationary camera broadcasts live footage of a single activity such as somebody knitting. You may be chuckling now thinking that I am exaggerating for comic effect, but you won’t be laughing when you’re in front of your 70-inch High-Def 3-D Surround Sound TV watching a sweater being born.

In addition to captivating needlecraft, Norway has used this format enthrall audiences with a seven-and-a-half hour train journey, a 134-hour coastal cruise, 12 hours of firewood burning and 18 hours of salmon fishing, many of which were fruitless. If there’s anIMG_6506edit.jpgything more boring than repeatedly casting a line without catching anything, it’s watching someone repeatedly casting a line without catching anything.

This is an absolutely brilliant idea for advertisers because, for once, people are begging for a commercial interruption. They probably fast forward through the programs to get to the ads.

According to the article, this programming has been hugely popular in Norway.  For instance, during the 134-hour cruise show, Norwegians–even the queen– actually showed up along the coast to wave to the boat as it cruised by. This illustrates that Norwegians–even the queen–don’t have a lot to do.

yuleIn Scandinavia’s defense, I should point out that this type of programming is not entirely original.  For instance, a New York City TV station has been broadcasting burning firewood for decades, although they only do it on Christmas, and it’s not live. In fact, I believe they’ve been using the same Yule Log video for so long, I’m surprised it’s not in black and white. And while we may not be able to lay claim to televised knitting, we do have Bob Ross, who began painting “happy little trees” on PBS in 1983, and is still seen doing it, even though he died in 1995.

Nevertheless, a spokesperson for the production company that purchased the U.S. rights to Slow TV believes it’s a radical new concept that will translate wonde250px-Bob_at_Easel[1]rfully for American viewers. “This one allows you to watch and just sit back and relax,” she is quoted as saying. “Not in a boring way but in a really ‘that’s different’ sort of way. It allows you to breathe.”

Two things about this statement:

  1. The “that’s different” comment really only applies to the first minute or so. At hour 11 of the firewood spectacular, it’s not so different anymore. Except maybe there’s less wood.
  2. I’m really hoping that all television programming in Norway allows for the respiration of viewers. What this programming may do is encourage viewers to stop that particular bodily function, possibly via an overdose of gravlaks.

What I’m interested in knowing is, when they’re about to cut away to a commercial, do they say things like “After the break…more knitting!” And, at the end of the episode, do they say, “And tune in next week for…mittens!”

While I can’t imagine this kind of thing working for a populace which doesn’t seem to like anything that doesn’t include some sort of conflict, it may work for a certain segment of the American audience, namely my wife, who cannot be in a room without having the television on. She rarely ever watches television; she just kind of has it keep her company while she does other things. This would be perfect.

To its credit, the production company recognizes that it will have to make some adaptations to appeal to American tastes. They envision televising events such as “observing wildlife, people-watching at a train station, a cross-country road trip or watching the seasons change at a dangerous railway passage.”

You can almost see where they’re going with this. You’ll notice she didn’t say “…watching the seasons change at a railway passage.” That would be entirely too Norwegian. For America, it has to be a dangerous railway passage. They know American audiences won’t watch knitting because, short of accidental impalement by a needle, there’s so little possibility of a calamity. But throw in the potential for disaster, and it becomes a sort of perpetual NASCAR race, with big ratings and lots of corporate logos on the train tracks.

I do have one question about all this, though. If they’re going to broadcast live for, like 36 hours, how do I set my DVR?

See you soon.

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One Response to Entry 296: Watch What Doesn’t Happen

  1. davidd says:

    What I’m wondering is why an American television production company has to BUY the rights to what amounts to pointing a camera out the window. (Fortunately the news article addressed that question.) As for the concept being “new,” as you pointed out (with a great little TV guide image for emphasis), the blazing Yule Log has been around for decades. If I recall correctly, in the early days of the VCR, semi-popular tapes included the Virtual Fireplace and the Virtual Aquarium.

    Some years ago I was active in local public access television. Top of the broadcasting food chain, I know. One time one of the more avid producers, a talented guy who usually put considerable production value into his shows, with fancy editing and multi-camera shoots, set a video camera on the dashboard of his car, hit “record,” and went for a three-hour drive in the countryside. He aired the uncut travel footage on the cable access station in one long segment on a slow programming day — yeah, I know, cable access, they’re ALL slow programming days. To both his amusement and his dismay, he received more comments… POSITIVE comments… about that video than about anything else he ever aired on the channel. I guess he missed an opportunity; who’d have thought that the truest of true life adventures, reality TV in real time, would become the Next Big Thing?

    Similarly, my wife used to produce and host a local public affairs interview program on the cable access channel. She put a lot of effort into scheduling guests and rounding up crew members. Overall she produced over sixty one-hour episodes. One day while we were grocery shopping a fellow approached us and said to her, “hey, I saw you on TV!” She thanked him for watching and said something about being glad he was interested in politics both locally and globally.

    “No, it wasn’t an interview show,” he said. “It was the one where you watch movies!” My wife appeared with me once, just once, on an occasional program in which I participated with some friends, “Public Domain Theater,” in which we sat on a sofa in front of a TV and watched old movies, sometimes adding our own commentary, sometimes not. It was basically two hours of people sitting on a couch watching TV, kinda like “Mystery Science Theater 3000” without robots… or good jokes. And people would watch us watching TV. More people, apparently, than watched my wife’s political talk show.

    So yeah, there’s really nothing new in this concept, other than that, in America, production companies are apparently willing to PAY an international production company for a concept that has been a staple of no-budget local cable access channels for decades.

    I’ll be expecting you to announce soon that you’ve signed a TV deal for a show in which we get to watch you sit at your desk and type these columns.

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