TV Preview

'Farmer' Should Be Put Out to Pasture

By Jennifer Frey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Finally, a reality show that doesn't even try to pretend it's not a big, cliched setup. There's no pretense on "Farmer Wants a Wife," the CW's new entry in the genre -- just all the transparent hicks-and-city-slickers stereotypes you can imagine, topped with a heapin' helping of plain ol' idiocy.

Farmer Matt -- he of the washboard abs and no discernible personality -- chews hay and drives a pickup and, with all the drawl he can muster, calls women "gals." At least all the young, very high-maintenance "city girls" who have come to the sticks to pine for his down-home affections.

And those city girls? To show their country ignorance, they wear three-inch spike heels out into the cow dung and cower in terror before cluck-happy chickens that, the gals are convinced, are about to peck out their eyes.

This is a popular reality concept in Europe. Really.

It would be nice to compare "Farmer Meets a Wife" to the old show "Green Acres," which seems to serve as trace comedic inspiration. Unfortunately, that would be sacrilege. "Farmer" is more in tune with "The Simple Life," only without the advantage of starring Paris Hilton (and when "starring Paris Hilton" becomes a compliment, well, that pretty much sums it up).

The premise, such as it is: Ten women, fed up with city boys (who, we are told, are by definition all callous, untrustworthy types), head to Portage Des Sioux, Mo. (population 351), in search of a rural fella who likes to go shirtless when straddling a tractor. Namely, they try to win the affections of Matt Neustadt, a third-generation farmer whose family owns 1,000-plus acres.

Most of the city girls appear to be about 21 -- you know, exactly the age when one would expect a pretty young woman to become jaded and decide it's really, really time to settle down and give up the formerly fab "Sex and the City" nightclub lifestyle. And several of them seem far more interested in wearing Daisy Duke shorts, in what they consider the perfect fashion backdrop, than in Tractor Man himself. The first woman who actually shows the tiniest hint of wanting the farm lifestyle, in fact, should just up and win the prize.

The best part of the show is the evilness that is Josie, who suffers from puffy face, bad '70s makeup and even worse '80s accessories (think big, fake pearls). She stakes out her territory before she even hits the farm, announcing to the cameras that farmers' wives have lovely lifestyles that involve riding horses and "going to polo matches." Once she arrives, she asks whether the farmhouse that the girls are sharing has maid service and, when told no, then wonders whether it has "modernized" toilets -- by which she means, don't farmers all use those outhouse thingies out back?

Farmer Matt -- showing either a brief flash of intelligence or a canny ability to please his producers -- insightfully calls Josie entertaining, although perhaps a wee bit "insane." In other words: Expect her to stick around for a while.

The initial challenge facing the gals (several with bandannas knotted around the neck, to emphasize how much they are willing to commune with the country lifestyle) involves putting chickens in coops. She with the most chickens gets immunity from elimination. Josie coops no chickens, natch, because she considers it low-class and wants to impress Matt with her sophistication.

When Farmer Matt has to send his first gal "back to the city," he reveals his decision by making the women pick up a chicken and hunt for the egg underneath. The one whose chicken didn't lay an egg doesn't get to stay. (Next week: The ejectee finds out by losing at bingo.)

The poultry is no match for the show's producers, though, who lay the biggest egg of all.

Farmer Wants a Wife (60 minutes) premieres tonight at 10 on Channel 50.

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