Cultural historians will note that Fox’s reality show “The Simple Life” — which placed Paris Hilton on a farm — was inspired by “Green Acres,” the sitcom where a gal said “goodbye city life” for the country. Blending that with “The Bachelor” yields this Fremantle format, which would be more intriguing if only the girls didn’t try so hard and the farmer didn’t come across like a gameshow host — Mr. Rogers with washboard abs. Heavily produced, the series has some ratings potential by CW’s chicken-feed standards but doesn’t feel distinctive or titillating enough to keep ’em down on the farm.
Matt, the 29-year-old Missouri farmer, meets 10 women (age 21 to 27) by first appearing shirtless and riding a tractor, accompanied by what sounds like music from “Deliverance.” OK, so maybe this isn’t the time or place for subtlety.
The whole concept hinges on the women being fish out of water, and they shrilly oblige. So one steps in cow poop and acts as if it’s plutonium (“Ewww!”), and another expresses desperate fear of chickens (“Eeek!”). A third insists she’s looking for a guy “with honesty and integrity,” but frankly, one suspects she’d be just as happy to come away from the experience with an agent.
Seemingly well schooled in what’s expected of them, the gals perform their roles to the hilt — particularly Josie, who accuses the others of being low-class, says things that are pretty near racist and expresses a head-scratching take on the Middle East that, if implemented, would set back international relations about 30 years. For the show’s sake, one can only hope the farmer finds her just priceless.
The weak link here, those rippling biceps notwithstanding, is Farmer Matt himself, whose efforts to be folksy and charming come across as self-conscious and insincere. He’s good-looking enough, but completely stiff and too polished — in part, perhaps, because the host-free approach forces him to handle the exposition. Not to perpetuate stereotypes, but hey, this is reality TV, and a touch more Jethro Bodine would have gone a long way.
“Farmer Wants a Wife” has been a hit elsewhere, but as several other formats have demonstrated, that’s no assurance of success in the U.S. of A. Based on reality TV precedent, some young women will be on the edge of their seats when elimination time rolls around, but watching Matt put potential mates through the process — an actual chicken-and-egg proposition — all I could think about was that when TV gives you a show this hackneyed, make an omelet.