It might be the most bonkers reality show of all, but The Farmer Wants a Wife is back for 2020. Tara Ward recaps the first episode.
“It all begins with hope,” host Natalie Gruzlewski tells us in the opening moments of The Farmer Wants a Wife, and friends, I did not expect this show to go so deep, so soon. Hope is all we have left in 2020, so there’s no better time to embrace the hopes and dreams of a lonely farmer who reckons the dry season is the perfect time for finding himself “a bloody girl”.
Returning after eight years in the reality TV wilderness, Australia’s FWAW is part The Bachelor, part Country Calendar. It’s the dating show that takes authentic men of the land and matches them with single sheilas sick of dating metropolitan dirtbags. “City men can taste every chocolate in the box, and why would they stop at one?”, one woman asks. I don’t know the answer to that, just like I don’t know why everyone in this show is white and straight. I do, however, know that FWAW wants to prove that nothing is more attractive than a bull in need of a heifer and a bae to help with baling.
I mean, I get it. I’ve watched every episode of McLeod’s Daughters at least four times, and if you’ve never fantasised about sharing a Drovers Run outdoor bath with Nick Ryan while indulging in some dirty talk about drench and dagging, then I call you a liar, good sir, and I bid you good night.
Five farmers are putting their hearts on the line this season, and they’re single and ready to mingle. Farmer Alex is a self-described “love virgin” who wants someone to pop his love cherry, ASAP. “I’m balls against the wall ready to fall in love,” he says, which is definitely the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard. Farmer Harry, meanwhile, is looking for a bride as reliable, but less expensive, than his John Deere tractor. He wants a woman to share his blowflies with. Smell you later, Alex’s balls, THIS is the romance we need in 2020.
But what of the brave women yearning to be the proverbial fly to the agrarian swatter? The farmers approached their potential brides like a paddock of carrots, thinning down hundreds of applicants to their favourite eight. Meeting them is the moment the fairy tale begins, when the women get tipsy on budget champagne and the blokes say “yeah nah” until they succumb to Cupid’s bow and we all live happily ever after.
The tension is palpable. “I’m crapping it,” Farmer Harry says. Worlds are colliding: man meeting woman, city meeting country, hornbag meeting hornbag. Romance hangs in the air like the exhaust fumes from a combine harvester.
“Might as well get into it,” says Harry, and get into it they do, because these blokes know their way around a compliment. They love women with eyes, they love angels falling from heaven, and even though I’m an entire country, a pandemic and three long months away from these words first being uttered, I found myself Googling “will Farmer Neil marry me at Drovers Run?”. The heart wants what the heart wants, don’t question me.
The farm charm does the trick. Sparks begin to fly in a way that could endanger local habitat. “Giddy up,” Dolly Parton devotee Marnie says about winery owner Nick, while Henrietta has to lie down beside an ornamental flamingo to recover from her chat with Alex. Farmer Sam is ready to propose 10 seconds after meeting Emily, while Harry reveals his dog’s names are Doug and Shirley. Balls to the wall, we’re officially in love.
Sadly, this show is not One Farmer, Eight Wives and a TV Writer Who Cannot Distinguish Fact From Fiction, and at the end of the episode, the farmers must cut their crops. Only four women will be invited to each farm, while the rest are thrust back into the real world where men hoover down entire boxes of chocolates with neither care nor concern. It hurts to see your blowfly-filled future slip away, but the rejected women take it like the champs they are.
“Gimme a tub of ice cream and a couple of cheeseburgers and I’ll be good,” says one, a hero for the ages. “I was keen to see some crocodiles, eat some pasta and live my best life on the farm,” says another, “but I can go to Australia Zoo and have some pasta.” Forget Nick Ryan in the bath, I just found my one true love, and she’s standing next to the crocodile enclosure holding Hers & Hers bowls of fettuccine.
What words of advice does old mate Farmer Harry leave with these heartbroken women? Where should they turn now? “There’s plenty of blokes out there. Find a pub, sit there for a few days, he’ll come in,” he says. Is Harry actually a love genius? We can only live in hope.
The Farmer Wants a Wife screens on TVNZ 2 on Monday nights at 8.45pm, and is available to stream on TVNZ OnDemand.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.