It was the punchline of the writers' strike. Just say the title, and with Cop Rock-esque ease, you suddenly have a nifty inside joke meaning something along the lines of Ha, ha, ha, if this goes on much longer we won't have anything to watch but some CW reality show called Farmer Wants a Wife! Ha, ha...it's here, and it's not so funny anymore.
Already a hit overseas, Farmer Wants a Wife (debuting April 30) has a frank Snakes on a Plane obviousness: There's this farmer, and he wants a wife. ''His land and cattle and chickens abound/but this good ol' boy ain't got no lady around'' goes the particularly uncharming theme song. Missouri boy Matt Neustadt is not only lonely, he's tan, smiley, and Bowflexed to an unwholesome level of rippage. He just cain't find love in li'l Portage des Sioux, Mo., so he'll dally with 10 big-city girls, 'n' see if one of 'em jist might make for a farmer's filly. I am not, by the way, mocking life in a rural small town I am mocking the show's idea of life in a rural small town. Matt says things like ''You'll be walking in tall cotton,'' which is fine, but he says this phrase at least twice in the pilot, in a way that's even more suspiciously ''country'' than the moment he rides into view shirtless on his tractor. The women tend to be equally uninteresting. They spend their first few days totally shocked and not a little bit wobbly in their Sarah Jessica heels as they are predictably forced to do farm chores like wrangle chickens. ''That is super sexy,'' says Matt of Kanisha's deft poultry handling, and if I believed for a second that he believed this, I might like the show more. Wildflowers are picked and hayrides are ridden, and the women discover who's eliminated by picking up chickens and searching for eggs. You'll long for the subtlety of a simple rose ceremony.
Certainly, no one expects dating shows to lead to true love anymore. The only people who seemed to ever believe that were the vehement, rejected stripper from season 1 of Rock of Love and The Bachelorette's Trista and Ryan Sutter, who have gone so genuine as to get married and procreate. But one should expect a more intriguing passel of women competing for affection than this group, which includes the obligatory sweet virgins, the rich spoiled girls, and, naturally, an aspiring actress playing the villain. Josie, a big, blond, proud Republican from California, seems to have studied the Jennifer Coolidge oeuvre: There's a lot of squinting, lip puckering, and unhinged inanity, uttering such no-no phrases as ''If he was more well-off, we'd like him more.'' Josie would be deeply unpleasant if she didn't feel like a comedy-sketch castoff, but that's the problem with the whole series: It's trying to be juicy, stupid fun, but it isn't smart enough. C-