They have already given us a slow train to Bergen, a six-day ferry cruise on the fjords and an eight-and-a-half hour knitting epic. Now the channel behind Norway’s marathon “Slow TV” broadcasts – billed as an antidote to the frantic data overload of the internet and twitter – has excelled itself with Piip Show, a strangely addictive “reality-TV show with wild birds”.
NRK’s latest offering, the creation of birdwatcher turned advertising photographer Magne Klann, follows the lives of the cast of birds as they visit three specially constructed houses over three months.
The action started last week in a feeder styled loosely after Java, one of Oslo’s better-known coffee shops. The clientele have so far included a nuthatch, a magpie, a blue tit, a bullfinch, and a passing red squirrel.
It moves on next month to include two further nesting boxes, both fitted out in Scandinavia’s trademark Funkis architectural style, where Klann hopes the show’s feathered stars will hatch and rear their young.
“We are not able to do anything to make them act the way we want them to act,” Klann said. “We just have to anticipate what they will do. That’s a big part of the idea and that’s a big part of what fascinates people.”
Norway’s Crown Princess Mette-Marit is a fan, describing the show in a tweet last week as “the best thing on the internet”. Andreas Grimsæth, the NRK producer managing the project, says the show’s audience peaked on Friday with 30,000 unique visitors coming to the web page.
“It’s going on until the end of June and the activity on Twitter and Instagram is growing all the time,” he said. “People are engaged and they think it’s funny.”
NRK’s fixation with slow TV started in 2009 with the decision to do a live broadcast of a seven-hour train journey from Oslo to Bergen. “We thought it would be something completely new … and cheap,” explained Rune Møklebust, the head of programming at NRK.
The show went head to head with the X-Factor, and remarkably came out top. “Miraculously, we got more viewers. All these people wrote in to say, ‘I only meant to tune in for a minute but I watched for hours’.”
NRK followed it up with a 134-hour live broadcast of the Hurtigruten coastal ferry creeping its way up the fjords; an eight-hour broadcast of a fire gently consuming itself; an attempt to beat the world’s “sheep-to-sweater” knitting record; and, last month, a 200-minute history lecture to mark the bicentenary of the Norwegian constitution.
Klann is adamant that he is not part of the trend, as he launched the first version of Piip Show in 2003.
“It was before all this minute-for-minute programming, which they call Slow TV,” Klann said. “I don’t want to take credit for all the other projects, but in a way we were the first.”
The idea for the show flowed naturally from his interests, he argued. “I’ve been a birdwatcher since I was 12 and my start in photography was bird photography,” he said. “I moved into portraits and documentary and advertising professionally, so I sort of brought the professional photography back into my hobby as a bird photographer and combined the two.”
This article was written by Richard Orange for The Guardian.