For those of you unfamiliar with the show it's reality TV (don't groan) based on the British version "Farmer Wants a Wife" (which in turn probably developed the format from the original 1980s Swiss version of "Bauer sucht Bäuerin") which of course more accurately describes what it's all about.
Ah yes, trust the language of Molière to add a veneer of sophistication and grace to something which er...gets straight to the point.
|Love down among the cows (screenshot "L'amour est dans le pré", M6 video)|
Anyway, somehow it has captured the hearts of many French, regularly drawing in millions of viewers and it's not difficult to understand why.
The principle is simple - the quest for love.
Through a TV show? Impossible you might think.
But it works - well from time to time - although there have been a fair few disasters along the way.
Of the 57 participants in the six previous series, 10 couples have tied the knot and there have been 20 babies born.
All right, so the stats aren't exactly overwhelming, but hey, let's not concentrate on those too much as this is all about "lurrrrrv" and the attempts of some rural-based Lonely Hearts to find their soulmates, albeit rather too publicly perhaps.
Whether they be cereal or livestock farmers, vintners or for the first time this season a bio-apiarist, the one thing they all apparently have in common is that they're looking for love.
Their stories and reasons are as varied as you might expect
Some of them have clearly been persuaded their lives can only be made complete by the presence of another half, while others have been there, done that but it didn't work out and they would like to try all over again. There are also those who don't really want a partner or appear to do everything that would lead you to believe that to be so and others who - um quite simply - are just plain odd.
Different strokes for different folks, the programme-makers put together a blend of the sad, the totally normal (what the heck is that?) the weird (ditto) and the far from wonderful.
They're introduced to viewers early on in the year in a series of cow-slapping, grass-chewing portraits during which the effervescent host, Karine Le Marchand, probes gently, giggles greatly and encourages the participants to reveal exactly what they're looking for.
Then it's up to viewers to write in claiming how much they aspire to jacking in their everyday hum drum life for a wellie-clad one, knee deep in mud.
After reading through the replies (the handsome young hunks of course receive heaps of them while the wrinklies or those with a less-than-appealing character might only be sent a handful) each farmer makes a shortlist of those dames or messieurs to be invited for a round of speed dating.
That's where the fun usually begins because you just know immediately who has the hots for whom, which potential date is a disaster waiting to happen, who's on the show just for fun and their Andy Warhol moment and ...dare it be said...who wants a simple roll in the hay.
Each farmer is allowed to choose two lucky candidates to take back to the farm where they spend the best part of a week as an asking-for-trouble ménage à trois "getting to know each other".
There's a click or not. One contender is summarily dispatched (or sometimes both pack their bags) leaving the way clear for the remaining one to "pursue the adventure".
Flame invites farmer to his or her pad to see life from the other side and then the two of them decide together whether to take up the production team's offer of an all-expenses-paid trip to some "exotic" and "romantic" location where, if "it" hasn't already happened, quite frankly it ain't never gonna do so.
But what the heck. It's television.
So what of this new season? What delights did the lovely Le Marchand and her possé of potential husband and wife-seekers have on offer?
The opening programme featured the letter-opening phase; including a hint of things to come in a future series perhaps when horsebreeder Annie, received one from another woman.
Le Marchand has gone on record as saying she would like to have a gay or lesbian farmer as a candidate (that has already been the case in the equivalent programme in both Belgium and Germany) but so far in France there have been no takers.
Annie politely but definitely said "No thank you" to Martine, but the thinking of the production team in airing the clip could very well have been that it might strike a chord with someone out there willing to "go public".
Anyway, after the letter-opening, the programme followed the shortlisting and speed dating of four of the farmers and their first tentative wellie-clad steps down on the farrrrrrm.
|Bertrand (screenshot from M6 video)|
Bertrand, a 26-year-old from the Rhône-Alpes region admitted that his initial choice of shortlisting from the piles and piles and piles of potential Mrs Bertrands was based on...oh here's a surprise - "looks".
So it wasn't too difficult to figure out that he would plump for Caroline, the 27 year-old single mother "shy and sensitive" but confident enough to keep the conversation flowing during the short time the two had to get to know each other.
Sadly for her, Bertrand's other choice was to be a 22-year-old bottled-blonde bombshell who had fibbed about her age because Bertrand had said he had been looking for someone between 26 and 30, but caught his eye none the less with a stonking photo and an equally seductive demeanour during the speed dating.
"She can be forgiven for not giving her real age," a clearly smitten Bertrand said, adding that he hoped there would be no more further surprises in store.
Don't be too sure about that. This is a young woman who has apparently already caused quite a stir on the Net, is "a model and wannabe actress" and...oh you get the picture.
It's a match made in media heaven of course, guaranteed probably to be over before it has begun unless Bertrand really is as sincere as he claims and sees through it all.
The doyenne of the seventh series, Jeanne from the Basque country, is one of those who was probably pushed into participating.
|Jeanne (screenshot from M6 video)|
She has a busy life combining farming with physiotherapy (not at the same time it must be added) and lives with her son in a beautifully if somewhat austerely furnished house.
At 60, she looks neither particularly interested nor motivated in finding a partner and probably won't have done her cause much good by inviting two rather lame contenders back to her chilly home - no central heating, brrrrr.
Lucien, a former teacher, seems sincere enough, if somewhat dull. But he really should lose that sweater-thrown-oh-so-casually over-the-shoulder look which is...er so 80s.
And as for the other potential Romeo, Jean-Marie. Well the bank manager shares something in common with another contestant from the last series in having eyes that look just a little too manic (dare it be said psychotic) and a sense of humour more appropriate for a hormone-laden teenager when almost licking his lips (figuratively speaking) as he spots a double bed in one of the rooms.
There's also a blast from the past of sorts in the choice Michel-Edouard (yep the French love their double-barrelled first names) made from his speed dating session.
He was "snared" by a rather desperate-looking woman, Brigitte, who brings back uncomfortable memories of Nina from last year who ran gushing rings around the milder-mannered Philippe.
Heaven help Michel-Edouard and Josiane, the other woman he invited back to his place who was apparently attracted by his calmness. There's not much likelihood of that while Brigitte is around.
Finally a farmer with a dilemma - Dany who has chosen two very similar women Helena and Sylvie both of whom seem to match what he's looking for,
More or less the same age (29 and 31 respectively) they both claim to "adore the countryside" (yeah, yeah) and would be more than ready to upsticks if chosen...which of course gives Helena a distinct advantage because not only was she clearly Dany's first choice and his "coup de cœur" when sifting through the responses, she also lives quite literally just a few kilometres away.
So there you have it.
The first episode in the latest series of wonderfully gritty and perfectly edited stuff.
Larger than life and totally unrealistic? Yes and no. There's certainly a sense of this being entertainment for TV viewers, that's for sure.
But there's also a definite appeal and feeling, especially in some of the farmers and their "prétendantes", that they really are looking for love - sometimes in all the wrong places of course, but occasionally the right ones too.