Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Norwegian hit TV up in smoke

We have reached the point where our quality television outstrips the number of viewable hours we have in the day.

Some of our favorites: “Breaking Bad,” “Justified,” “The Walking Dead,” and “Dexter.” It’s yet to crack our line-up, but I know many people will say “Mad Men” tops that list.

Throw in hockey playoffs, baseball, the odd documentary and movies and there aren’t enough hours in the day to relish it all.

So what’s my point in all this? My point is . . .

What the hell’s wrong with Norway?

It was Feb. 19 when I read this NYTimes story headlined: “Bark Up or Down? Firewood Splits Norwegians.”

The story detailed how one of the most popular television programs in Norway is one that shows nothing but eight straight hours of burning wood. The show is called, “National Firewood Night.”

This is not to be confused with the Christmas Yule log broadcast that spins on a redundant loop.

No, this is a fire that I guess for production terms you’d call unscripted. No faces appear. The only sound is the crackling fire. The only evident human presence is a pair of female hands that occasionally add wood, or roast a marshmallow or sausage on sticks.

One viewer commented on a newspaper website: “I couldn’t go to bed because I was so excited. When will they add new logs? The broadcast was very calming and very exciting at the same time.”

Of course, Norway, like America, is not without its irreverent smart asses. One viewer tweeted: “Went to throw a log on the fire. Got mixed up. Smashed it right into the TV.”

The story makes “National Firewood Night” seem like Norway’s Super Bowl, only as we were breaking down along the lines of Ravens or 49ers, the Norwegians were split on a different dispute: bark up or bark down?

Each time a new log was placed on the fire, 50 percent of the calls would congratulate the unseen host on placing the bark down, while 50 percent would bitch that the host was an idiot for not putting the bark up.

It was a huge sensation. More than 20 percent of Norway’s televisions tuned in, nearly double the percentage a top American program earns.

I understand the soothing appeal of minimalist TV, but this is ridiculous. American bug programs are more dramatic. I checked to see if unseen host Ingrid Tangstad Hatlevoll was a supermodel famous for toplessness. That would make sense. Many men will stare at superficial things for eight hours on the off chance a breast will appear -- and by superficial things I’m talking about television programs, not dim dates.

But Hatlevoll’s not a supermodel. She’s a photographer (I think that's her up there). She’s a babe, but not exactly what I’d call “hot.”

That makes sense. What the hell would a hot girl be doing standing next to a roaring fire for eight straight hours?

I wish I had an opportunity to direct next season’s episodes.

The first eight hours would be similar to the previous with Hatlevoll’s dainty hands occasionally seen on camera placing a log on the fire. I’d have her do six straight bark ups until the bark down camp couldn’t take it any more then I’d have her slip in the reverse.

The real drama would begin halfway through hour 27 when a rugged man’s hands would enter the picture roasting a marshmallow opposite the female’s. The left hand would be wearing a wedding ring. He would be on screen for just the two minutes it took to toast the marshmallow.

Then after about another dozen logs his hands would reappear. But this time without the wedding ring.

Imagine the Norwegian tabloid uproar!

It would be like the old Taster’s Choice Coffee commercials that ran like a soap opera in the 1990s. They were wonderful.

I would skillfully manipulate the viewers into going nuts wondering whether the hands would ever get together.

It would play out over an entire season when I’d finally unite the hands in tender embrace.

The viewers would be in hysterics when the cliffhanger revealed that she preferred bark up and he bark down.

It’d be the one Norwegian firewood show where viewer burn out was impossible.

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