Though it wants to be the lighthearted “Green Acres”-esque story of how two men left big-city life to become farmers in Upstate New York, Planet Green’s “The Fabulous Beekman Boys” (returning for a second season Tuesday night) instead tells an irritating if somewhat fascinating story of everyday opportunism, in which reality TV is but one means to an end.
The couple who star in the show, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, have purchased — and, through the practical magic of gayness — restored a mansion and farm established in 1802 in Sharon Springs, N.Y., by William Beekman.
Like so many urbanites before them, the couple bought the farm to pursue a simpler life. Not quite everything has gone according to plan, unless mishap and mayhem are the plan, in order to contrive a reality show.
Josh, an author who has written a memoir about his former life as a drag queen, spends the workweek back at his advertising day job in a Manhattan cubicle maze, earning money to keep the farm afloat. Out in the country, Brent, a physician who left his practice to work as the vice president for “healthy living” at Martha Stewart Omnimedia, has now become a full-time fussbudget “farmer”: He frets over the barn’s shade of red, measures the straightness (no pun intended) of the fence posts and focuses on making products for Beekman 1802, a boutique the couple has opened to sell daintily wrapped packages of their farm’s cheese and soap.
“The Fabulous Beekman Boys” spends most of its energy depicting various causes of stress and an impending sense of disaster. Josh, who has now written another memoir (about life on the farm), hopes to quit his job and live at the farm permanently. Brent says this can only be possible once the duo’s soap and cheese revenue tops $1 million.
So much for simple living. What seemed to be Josh and Brent’s marital grumpiness in Season 1 comes closer to mutual contempt in Season 2. Though there are occasional hugs and pecks on the cheek, this no longer appears to be a love story, and one wonders if the men have any idea how chilly their relationship appears on TV.
Happily, plenty of warm fuzziness abounds out in the barnyard, where an ever-expanding goat population (and a rambunctious llama named Polka Spot) are tended to by a gentle and good-humored giant named Farmer John Hall, who works for Josh and Brent and tries to teach them the basics of animal husbandry and farm maintenance. Farmer John and his partner, Jason, seem to have a nice and truly simple life together, as do Doug and Garth, a down-to-earth couple who run a nearby bed-and-breakfast. In other words, exactly the sort of well-adjusted, gay relationships rarely seen on television.
In Tuesday’s double episode, Josh and Brent take a hurried road trip to North Carolina to collect four rare baby lambs covered in special black fur. They bicker the whole way. On the return trip, two of the lambs are to be delivered to Martha Stewart herself at her farm in Virginia.
Stewart’s presence — as Brent’s ex-employer and as an omniscient but seldom-seen lifestyle muse — looms over “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” causing a persnickety perfectionism in Brent that borders on obsessive-compulsion.
We learn on the road trip that although Josh and Brent have been together for a decade, Brent refuses to introduce Josh to Brent’s deeply religious family. Even as the highway exit that would lead to his North Carolina relatives flies past, Brent icily ignores Josh’s hurt feelings about this.
The show is best when it busies itself with messy bucolic details — the milking of goats, the shearing of llamas, the wallowing of pigs — instead of wallowing in the dysfunctional mud and frantic entrepreneurism that render Josh and Brent blind to the beauty and love around them.
(one hour; two episodes) returns at 10 p.m. Tuesday on Planet Green.