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RTL crops a ratings winner

German network with 'Farmer' reality show

BERLIN — German web RTL has harvested a surprise ratings winner this fall with a kitsch-filled reality show about lonely, overweight yet somewhat likeable farmers with crooked teeth auditioning potential female companions from the big city.

The simple title “Bauer sucht frau” (Farmer Seeks Wife) has a caveman-like ring to it in German as it does in other territories such as the Netherlands where it’s also enjoyed success. But the deliberately awkward pairings portrayed haven’t stopped more than 8 million Teuton viewers from tuning in during primetime on Mondays, the best run for the show now in its third season.

They’ve been treated to, among others, a 41-year-old farmer named Juergen who says he’s a virgin.

He and the other mostly goofy farmers –who sometimes speak with such strong rural dialects that subtitles are required — fumble with words and emotions over the women, with RTL’s cameras catching even the most embarrassing moments.

“Bauer sucht frau” was the second-most viewed show on German TV last week, an episode in which a dieting 350-pound farmer named Maik boasted he had learned a great deal about sex from his experience on the farm. It pulled in 8.83 million viewers.

But despite the sterling ratings and smiling farmers, not everyone is happy. The president of the powerful German farmers lobby, Gerd Sonnleitner, says he was incensed by the skein.

“Farmers are being unfairly portrayed as lonely halfwits who don’t have a clue,” he complains. “They’re spreading inaccurate cliches about farmers as simpletons.”

Some of the farmers have also complained they’re forced to act like morons by RTL.

A spokesman for RTL, Germany’s leading commercial web, defended the tactics, calling the show “a romantic comedy.”

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