Reconnects families: For 20 years, Tore Strømøy has reunited families across the world. (Photo: Morten Andersen/NRK)
Recently, the eighth season of “Tore på sporet” premiered on NRK1, a TV program where journalist Tore Strømøy help families reunite. The series has been one of Norway’s biggest TV successes; with 1.4 million viewers (Editor’s note: Norway has only 5 million inhabitants).
For nearly 20 years, the concept remained unchanged, and it still gather the nation to a shared TV experience. So, what is it with “Tore på sporet” (Directly translated: “Tore on the track”)?
– Many call it entertainment, but we are really making documentaries. We want to tell important stories. The program has become my life, says Strømøy to NRK.
Over the years, he has received both positive and negative critics. He tells that they have a solid fundament – a good story and an interesting reportage – because they know people like it.
– The simplest solution is often the best, states sociologist and principal at the Oslo School of Management, Trond Blindheim.
It all started in the 90s, when Strømøy made a documentary about a former Russian prisoner of war who still lived in Norway. He had not been in Russia since WW2, and his biggest dream was to return home.
– The program was very popular, and we realized that there was more to gain, says Strømøy, who immediately began to receive letters from people who wanted to reconnect with lost families.
However, of all requests, only a few stories turns into a TV program.
When Norway Cried
The first season of “Tore på sporet” aired in 1996, and Strømøy remember his first case.
– It was 16 years old Hanne Ingebrigtsen Skjervold from Trondheim who was searching for her biological family in South Korea. It was a great day when we found her mother, father and two siblings.
19 years later, Hanne is a mother of two. When she married, both her Norwegian adoptive father and her biological father walked her down the aisle. She still has a lot of contact with her family in South Korea.
– Tore means a lot to me. He fulfilled my dream, she tells NRK.
Sociologist Trond Blindheim thinks the TV success is because they find great stories with much drama:
– It moves you. Often, it is about lost parents or siblings, or they have been separated. I think it has to do with the fear we have as children of losing our parents. It is in our genes and hit a nerve within everyone.
Strømøy says it is important that people can recognize in the cases he presents.
– I think people do – it could be you or your neighbor. Also, I think people appreciate that there are no celebrities portrayed.
Blindheim believe the everlasting topics separation and reunification cause the longstanding success.
– It is about something basic, something existential. These are stories that people have told each other for hundreds of years. Even the Bible is full of such stories.
The editorial consists of Tore Strømøy, a photographer and a part-time production leader. It took two and a half years to make the eight new episodes.
In the first season, we followed several reunions in each episode, whereas now it is one case per program. This year’s season has also received a minor facelift in terms of the graphic profile. However, the unmistakable theme song is unchanged.
– We cannot change too much. People will be screaming and yelling, Strømøy says.
Ever so popular, Strømøy has not only received positive response – he was accused of being social pornographic and use human destinies to create television entertainment.
– In the beginning, I took it very hard. When media made such headlines, I thought the whole world was against me. However, we created something new, we did things others had not done before. It was new to our viewers.
– “Tore på sporet” is not trying to be advanced or intellectual. This hit the emotional nerves in all of us, Blindheim says.
Hanne Ingebrigtsen Skjervold also think the criticism has been unfair.
– Us having this burning desire to find our family, we need help. I do not think those who criticize realize how strong this desire is, she says.
The small editorial located at Tyholt in Trondheim, has no financial means to travel during the research period.
– It makes the research a little harder. If I had unlimited funds, I could easily search at the known locations. Now we must simply be more inventive from the office, says Strømøy pointing to computer and phone.
When it is finally time to travel, he has experienced places he never would have visited otherwise.
– For example, Bolivia, where we landed up in the mountains, or South Georgia at the South Pole. You would not normally visit these places.
Blindheim believes Strømøy is tailored for this role, and if it does not bring a tear to your eye, you must be emotionally stunted.
– It is a bit funny because at home, my wife is rather watching me cry than the program, Blindheim laughs.
Text modified by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews