The Seven Network, I’m led to believe, no longer wants to be known colloquially as “the roast chook network.” It’s now chasing a much younger demographic with aggressive, next-level programming.
So I’m a little confused how Farmer Wants a Wife made it past the commissioning stage under the new regime. It’s as middle-Australia as the Portmans frocks that are crowding the screen in the first episode of this revived dating series.
It’s been 4 years since we last saw “the world’s most successful dating show” (99 weddings) and “Australia’s successful dating show” (9 weddings, all of them via Nine). Host Natalie Gruzlewski slips back into the saddle with ease, ready to rekindle.
Yet in that time reality shows have gone to extremes (Married at First Sight, The Bachelor), dating is an online industry (Tinder et al), society has faced #metoo, same-sex marriage and Black Lives Matter, and the nation has been hit by drought, bushfire and (post-series) a pandemic.
But Farmer is bush fairytale. It will swim against the tide in a true-blue pitch for a perfect ending -although the drought is one topic, not even producers will ignore.
There are 5 blokes, aged 28 – 44 who farm sheep, cattle, fruit and grapes (is a winemaker a farmer?) from Tasmania to North Queensland. Alex, 29, describes himself as a love virgin. “I am really lonely… balls against the wall, I’m ready to fall in love,” he says. Harry, also 29, reckons he would be “a red hot dad,” and says his dream girl would be like a tractor “reliable but hopefully not as expensive” (reality recappers will have a field day with Harry’s quotes). And Neil, 32, is previously married.
When the 40 single ladies arrive in SVUs left over from The Bachelor it is genuinely concerning at their lack of diversity. Seriously, this is straight out of 2002 and for a network that has signed a diversity charter they should go back to the board room and read the small print. But I will move on…
On the plus side, Farmer gets back to grass roots TV romance. As the blokes meet their ladies one by one there are awkward smiles, blushing faces, spontaneous statements and cupid arrows at the ready. It feels like most of these ladies are here for the right reasons and nobody is manipulating from the UnREAL bible.
The roll-call of singles is dizzying…. Jess who left her job to be here…Chantele a fellow farmer who has never been on a date… Talia who has only ever visited an ‘interactive’ farm …Sarah who doesn’t believe in sex before marriage …Marnie who loves Dolly Parton… I can’t keep up -could producers please add some supers with their names?
After the initial meetings Gruzlewski is back for the all-important eliminations, which sees farmers in a schoolyard pick, whittling each group of 8 to 4.
While Farmer Sam stuffs up one choice by admitting, “I didn’t think much of this girl when I first saw her” (yikes), it’s Farmer Harry who has the best lines: “I thought you picked them? / She’s ready to get in and have a crack / I’m backin’ it in / I hope youse find love and I’m sure youse will.” You can’t write this stuff….
It’s in this sincerity where Farmer finds its sweet spot. While other dating shows are pitching at clickbait and Insta-fame, Farmer is ready to round up true believers. BYO chook.
Farmer Wants a Wife airs 7pm Sunday, 7:30pm Monday on Seven.