Netflix’s newest show for binge-watching is a real-time knitting marathon

Can’t bear the suspense.
Can’t bear the suspense.
Image: NRK
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Netflix has introduced addictive, thrilling television series like House of Cards and Stranger Things to audiences worldwide. But this week it will release something for people who prefer entertainment a bit more sedate.

Slow TV, a Norwegian TV series that documents ordinary events in real time, will arrive on the video streamer starting on Aug. 5. Its online release will bring one of the most bizarre phenomena on television to millions of viewers worldwide.

While little-known outside of Europe, Slow TV has captivated viewers in its native country with broadcasts of mundane events filmed from start to finish.

Its first program, aired in 2009 on state broadcaster NRK, was a recording of a seven-hour train ride from Bergen to Oslo. Its biggest thrills (spoiler alert) come when the train goes into tunnels. The video attracted about 1 million viewers—about 20% of Norway’s population.

Other programs soon followed. A 135-hour cruise from Bergen to Kirkenes. A 24-hour live broadcast of fishermen catching salmon. Fourteen hours of birds in a cafe. Each drew hundreds of thousands of viewers, though few of them watched all the way through.

Even though it never reached TV screens outside its native country, Slow TV’s continued success in Norway aroused fascination abroad.

New Yorker writer Nathan Heller sang its praises in 2014, likening it to “a great view you encounter on vacation: it’s always there, impervious, but it gains meaning and a story depending on what it conjures in your head.” The New York Times noted how some found the show to be surprisingly dramatic, though other Norwegians watched it simply out of patriotism. Jimmy Kimmel lampooned it on late-night TV in the US.

But despite the occasional think piece and YouTube clip, few had the opportunity to fully experience Slow TV. This month, that changes. In its English-speaking markets, Netflix will launch 11 of the videos for customers’ binge-watching pleasure:

  • Slow TV: National Firewood Evening
  • Slow TV: National Firewood Morning
  • Slow TV: National Firewood Night
  • Slow TV: National Knitting Evening
  • Slow TV: National Knitting Morning
  • Slow TV: National Knitting Night
  • Slow TV: Northern Passage
  • Slow TV: Northern Railway
  • Slow TV: Salmon Fishing
  • Slow TV: The Telemark Canal
  • Slow TV: Train Ride Bergen to Oslo

Slow TV’s arrival on Netflix will mark a test to see if its mysterious allure in Norway translates abroad.

In an age of on-demand entertainment, will people find a thrill (or meaning? or comfort? or help with insomnia?) watching marathon knitting sessions on their laptops or other devices? Today, the water cooler topic at offices across the US and other countries is Game of Thrones. Tomorrow, it could be salmon fishing.