Animalia: This reindeer migration is too slow for slow TV

Hello, and happy weekend. I have a soft spot for Norway. It’s the land of my ancestors, the place of my birth, the origin of some delicious desserts and the site of much gorgeous terrain. But most important for the purposes of Animalia: It has reindeer! Given the animals’ presence in the country, it was probably …
 
Animalia
On animals, people and the world they share
 
 
Reindeer in Norway. (Ben Birchall/PA, File via AP) Hello, and happy weekend. I have a soft spot for Norway. It’s the land of my ancestors, the place of my birth, the origin of some delicious desserts and the site of much gorgeous terrain. But most important for the purposes of Animalia: It has reindeer! Given the animals’ presence in the country, it was probably only a matter of time before they became the subjects of Norway’s popular “slow TV” movement. But as Norwegians learned this week, that didn’t mean the reindeer would follow the humans’ plan. Slow TV, if you haven’t heard of it, refers to some very counter-intuitive reality television — the beginning-to-end, livecam-style filming of a very mundane process. In recent years, the public broadcaster NPK has trained a camera on a sweater being knitted, a fire being built and burned, 18 hours of salmon spawning, and a 134-hour cruise along the Norwegian coast. Outside of Norway, slow TV has been analyzed, mocked and — by those of us who jump from link to link so often that focusing on a half-hour sitcom seems a feat of patience — kind of envied. Those Norwegians, with their ruddy complexions and stunning fjords and excellent schools, were not only able to devote hours to viewing such boring activities. They demanded it. Things got even more exciting when NPK this year began broadcasting the migration of reindeer from plains in the northernmost part of the country to their summer home on the island of Kvaloya, where the grazing is good. One million people tuned in to “Reindeer Migration Minute by Minute,” awaiting what was to be the most exhilarating segment of this cross-country trek: the ungulates’ swim from the mainland to the island. But animals are not firewood or trains, things whose progress can be controlled by people. And the reindeer had their own ideas about how this would go. By Friday, the producers were detecting no movement from the herd, which already was moving slower, and on a longer path, than the slow show’s creators — who had planned for an April 28 finale — anticipated. On Monday, the network said the show was suspended until further notice, according to the Local. As of the writing of this newsletter, it was still off air. If all this is making you eager to check out slow TV, you can find some past hits on Netflix. And while you watch, you will have ample time to ponder this question: Are Norway’s reindeer terribly uncooperative subjects, or did their motionlessness in fact represent complete mastery of the slow TV concept? Whatever the answer, it’s clear even the Norwegians seemed to get bored with the animals. Thanks, as always, for reading — and a very special thanks to the many people who responded to my request last week for feedback on zoos.
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