Love in the Countryside, review – rural heartache turned into a spectator sport
Earlier this year, the Farm Safety Foundation reported that the suicide rate among UK farm workers is running at more than one a week.
Tactfully, this was not mentioned in Love in the Countryside (BBC Two), a cheerful new matchmaking experiment that hopes to address the loneliness that is a major factor in that statistic.
Thus eight rural workers had their dating profiles posted on the BBC website. The pick of the applicants were summoned to a country house hotel for that most uncomfortable of rituals: speed-dating on camera. For those who work long solitary hours among animals, using TV as Tinder may well be a high-risk last resort.
Take Christina, who, following the death of her father, runs a beef and sheep farm in Dumfriesshire on her own. The responses to her profile were disappointingly scant, so the production somehow drummed up more applicants . From her reaction to each encounter, it was clear that there was a lot riding on this.
While the show means well, I have a lingering anxiety that it treats heartache as a spectator sport. It wasn’t just the farmers exposing themselves to hurt. Ed, a young dairy farmer from Lancashire, complimented two women on their looks, but one woman missed out and the camera cruelly zoomed in for a reaction shot.
Richard, a hearty Yorkshire dairy farmer in his fifties, attracted a long queue of single middle-aged women, which told its own story.
Everyone seemed nice but nervous. Only one or two might be suspected of treating this as a game-for-a-laugh audition for a career on television.
Step forward, Francesca from Leeds, whose knowledge of farm life was gleaned from watching a single episode of Housewives of Orange County.