‘Slow TV’ a hit in Norway. Next up: 5 hours of live knitting

Norwegian sheep were last in the news more than a dozen years ago, when a resurgent wolf population killed hundreds, including 63 at Anne Ulvik's farm in Stor Elvdal County. Now, one lucky lamb will be coming to national fame as NRK television stages National Knitting Night on Nov. 1.
(Bjoern Ove Holmberg / Los Angeles Times)

Couch potatoes: Mark your calendars.

Norway’s NRK television network, the folks who brought you 12 hours of a crackling fire in February and 5 1/2 days of a cruise ship steaming along the Arctic coast in 2011, plans to carry five hours of live knitting as its next “Slow TV” offering.

The Friday night prime-time event on Nov. 1 is a bid by Norwegian wool shearers, yarn spinners and avid knitters to capture the world record from Australia for producing a sweater, from sheep’s back to human’s.

But it also reflects a national penchant for savoring simplicity and celebrating the mundane. Norwegians tend to pride themselves on being boring, claiming modesty, reticence and respect for tradition as national virtues.


And “Slow TV” has found a receptive audience among the serene and often snowbound.

“You would think it’s boring television, but we have quite good ratings for these programs, so obviously there’s an audience for it,” Kristian Elster, a journalist with NRK’s international affairs department, told the English-language Norwegian website the Local.

Elster says he knits while on assignment to kill time between interviews, and that the sight of a man quietly clicking away in a Parisian cafe can be an icebreaker.

“You sort of get in contact with people you wouldn’t normally get into contact with,” he told the Local.

The Nov. 1 broadcast that begins at 7:30 p.m. local time will start with the shearing of a lamb, proceed to cover the spinning of wool to yarn, then follow speed-knitters as they transform the yarn into a garment.

Australia holds the current record of four hours and 51 minutes, which the Norwegians hope to better in a victorious, though understated, casting off around midnight.

“We have already earmarked the lamb to be shorn and started to put together the team of eight people who will be trying to break the knitting record: one to shear, while the seven remaining must spin and knit as fast as they can,” the program’s producer, Lise-May Spissoy, told the BBC.

Spissoy said NRK has attracted record numbers of viewers to previous Slow TV productions, which have included tree-felling and salmon-fishing in its live-action repertoire.

Up next? Perhaps watching paint dry.

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Twitter: @cjwilliamslat