MTV's stable of hip reality TV shows may have just been outflanked. By a publicly funded station. In Norway.
"National Firewood Night," a 12-hour program aired in mid-February by Norway's state-run broadcaster, NRK, won the hearts -- or at least plenty of eyeballs -- of Norwegians earlier this month.
Rune Moeklebust, NRK's head of programming, described the show to the BBC as "slow but noble television."
Slow, indeed. The first four hours of "National Firewood Night" featured firewood aficionados discussing chopping and stacking techniques, in addition to more (ahem) burning questions related to the fire itself. The following eight hours were were filled by a live shot of a burning fire.
Not only did the show earn respectably high ratings (nearly 20 percent of Norway's population tuned in), but perhaps more indicative of success, it also inspired controversy of sorts. Per The New York Times, in an article cheekily titled "Firewood Splits Norwegians":
“We received about 60 text messages from people complaining about the stacking in the program,” said Lars Mytting, whose best-selling book “Solid Wood: All About Chopping, Drying and Stacking Wood — and the Soul of Wood-Burning” inspired the broadcast. “Fifty percent complained that the bark was facing up, and the rest complained that the bark was facing down.”
The show even earned a satirical response on "The Colbert Report" (watch above), which applauded the performance of "National Firewood Night" in the face of competition from other Norwegian broadcasts, like "So You Think You Can Watch Paint Dry" and "The Amazing Glacial Race."
Colbert and company aren't all that far off. NRK broadcast a 134-hourslong show in 2011, featuring a continuous live-action shot from a cruise ship traveling up the Norwegian coast. Per Reuters, 60 percent of Norway's population tuned in to watch at one point or another.