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Need a Break? Think Slow TV

Why would you watch "speed knitting" for hours? The answer might surprise you.

I recently spent time with some friends from Norway. During our conversations, someone brought up “slow TV” and how much Norwegians enjoy it.


Trip from Bergen to Oslo

Turns out, the Norwegian national television channel, for which there is no equivalent in the US, began an ongoing project several years ago that has become a national favorite. In 2009, a camera on the front of a train that went from Bergen to Oslo broadcast all seven hours of the journey, through forests, over mountains and into the city. Norwegians loved it. Families gathered around TVs, slowed down, relaxed, and stress eased away.

Then, in 2011, the national television station broadcast 134 hours of a boat trip. The MS Nordnorge delivers mail along Norway’s west coast and travels from Bergen to Kirkenes. During the broadcast, the station estimated that at least half of Norway’s population tuned in to watch the boat skim along the coastline or into the fjords.


More recently, the station broadcast hours of speed knitting. Yes, knitting! And coming up in November will be several days of people singing all of the hymns in a hymnal used by many churches.

So what’s the attraction? As some people in Norway say, it’s such a calming visual, that it becomes relaxing, a way to slow down, to think about nothing. Parents have used the boat trip broadcast as a way to help children go to sleep. People who come from certain areas of the west coast make sure to watch the segments where the boat stops at their town before moving on. There’s even talk of a segment on “a day in the life of a snail.”

Slow TV is a hit, and not just in Norway.

I just learned that in my university office, where we have several graduate students working, one of them put up a screen saver of a fire in a fireplace during the cold months last winter. He put it on several of the computers so when students needed some “down time,” or some pseudo warmth, there it was. Guess what? The Norwegians did that ages ago too!

I doubt we’ll have a raging Slow TV movement in the US anytime soon. But, then again, if younger people are putting fireplaces on their screen savers, maybe some smart cable TV executive will step in and show the ocean side for 24 hours a day. One can only slow down and hope.