Off Track

Jimmy Vanden Brook

“Fifty-seven channels, and nothin’ on….” This classic line from Bruce Spingsteen about the dearth of quality television viewing seems quaint now. There is talk that satellite television could provide access to over 500 channels. So, would that mean 10 times “nothin’” will be on the tube? To Bruce maybe, but not to advertisers. The technical ability to jam the air and space waves with stuff coincides with marketers’ abilities to target very specific groups of people with their messages. Nothing is too odd, quirky or of parochial interest to not have a potential audience and, thus, some sheep to shear.

How else do you explain “American Chopper?” It’s a show about a father-son team that builds outrageous custom motorcycles, under tight deadlines, with the attendant knuckle banging, tool throwing and creative anguish over chrome choices. For dynamic tension, the father is verbally abusive of his son. Cute. Now I’m not sure why, but there are a lot of natural male-enhancement ads that run between shouting scenes in the garage. I guess that’s how a small advertiser with large expectations, ahem, gets to its target demographic. I should say that I only have an academic and cultural interest in this type of programming and commercial activity. But, in this niche-market-obsessed advertising world, I see a huge opportunity for Nordic ski programming on TV.

The New Nordic Network, as I envision it, would have a core of shows that would feature travel adventures, backcountry skiing, Nordic racing and ski instruction. But, it would also have to include some reality shows that would create a little buzz.

How about this line-up: Nordic Idol, a contest to see who can ski 5K and then belt out a tune (sort of a Nordic combined event); Hell’s Nordic Kitchen, a Scandinavian cooking contest where participants are berated by an English master chef for burning their lefse (I’m not sure why watching people being belittled by an irate Brit has appeal, but it does); and Skiing with the Stars, where celebrities vie for the top spot to see who looks best in Lycra over a 1.5 kilometer course.

Think of the product promotion possibilities. Skis, boots, poles and hats are just a start. How about something new like the “Nordic Lounger?” It’s a reclining chair with ski poles attached to the sides. While you’re watching your favorite New Nordic Network show, you can be getting an upper body workout!

I can easily imagine not just one network devoted to things Nordic, but a multitude. It would be like the Discovery Channel, which now has multiple offspring. Under the New Nordic Network or NNN, banner, the sky’s the limit.

For those who love shopping, there’s NNN -QVC, the place to get a high-quality low-cost Nordic Lounger from the convenience of your own home. For the latest Ole and Lena jokes, tune in to NNN –Comedy Central. The truly obsessed will be glued to NNN-The Waxing Channel, with endless wax demos, scintillating interviews, and streaming video, pod-casts, and downloadable wax advice for race day. NNN-The Weather Channel will provide ski condition reports with live ski trail video, 24/7, worldwide.

News junkies can tune in to the new CNN (Cable Nordic News) for continuous coverage of ski happenings. My favorite will be NNN-The Classic Nordic Movie Channel. It would feature only one film, The Heroes of Telemark starring Kirk Douglas. It’s the dramatic story of Norwegian resistance fighters who, on skis, disrupted the Nazi attempt to build an atomic bomb. It makes me weep every time.

If you think that the content of the proposed New Nordic Network is a bit thin, I suggest you take a channel-by-channel tour of the current cable offerings. Basically, people will watch almost anything and repetition is no problem. I’ve seen people sit in front of The Weather Channel watching the same weather loop through cycle after cycle. It’s a way to tune out and turn off. It’s my favorite way to fall asleep when I’m on the road and I forgot a book to read. Mr. Springsteen is mostly right. There’s nothin’ on.

Readers of this magazine, even if they tough it out to the end of this article, will probably make some time to get outdoors. We all find our inspiration to get moving in different ways. You can find books and magazines about all aspects of skiing, club meetings or chat rooms for ski geeks, lots of websites and, this winter, we'll have the televised Olympics, which will devote nearly no time to cross country events. But, if we had the New Nordic Network up and going by then, you could be sitting in your Nordic Lounger, cranking out your leg of the 4 X 10 km relay along with your favorite team. Maybe the “Boss” will be crooning about 57 channels of Nordic skiing.

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