Reality TV is fine when you walk away into the sunset with the girl on your arm or with $250,000 – but what happens when both the girls leave because they seemingly can’t handle the isolation (physically and emotionally)? MolksTVTalk.com correspondent Elizabeth M caught up with this season’s “hermit” bachelor Paul for a warts and all discussion about his time on the reality dating show.
The sixth season of Farmer Wants A Wife was an unfolding epic of awkwardness, stolen kisses and wavering commitment. The season concluded with five out of six matches, reduced to just two the following morning by the harsh reports newspapers. The sixth farmer, dubbed Mr. Independent by the opening credits, was the most enigmatic bachelor, and the man I was lucky enough to speak to after the conclusion of the show. Paul and I spoke at length about his experience before, during and after the filming of the show.
A mate put Paul forward as a farmer looking for love last year, neither of them having seen the show. A busy man, happily single for ten years, Paul declined when the producers started calling. The following six months saw an unexpected romance begin and end for Paul, reminding him what he had been missing. When the producers called him up for the new series, they could hear in his voice that something had changed.
Paul was unsure how interesting he would be on television, and how he would enjoy a camera being constantly shoved in his face. He proposed that the camera crew could come out to Gnarloo to film him, and each side could see how well it worked. Without further discussion, the video went straight on the website. He was assured filming would be brief and he would be allowed time to get his farm work done.
The arrival of the applications of the ladies gave Paul his first apprehension about his chances of finding love on the farm. It’s hard to get a sense of someone from an A4 piece of paper with somebody’s favourite colour on it and a few photos.
It was obvious from the first episode that the shaggy haired Irishman was going to be a peculiar nuisance for the producers. Paul was politely resistant to the new speed dating arrangement, where every girl had a chance with every farmer. Paul suddenly had the option of going after any of the fifty odd twenty-somethings who had turned up for love. Rachel fans will remember her coyly trying it on with Paul – and every other farmer – while he laughingly but firmly told her that he was too old for her.
Each farmer was asked to choose three women to take back to their farm. Paul had found himself attracted to only two; he didn’t want to take a third. The producers attempted to convince him but he refused. Having been once in a long-term de facto relationship, Paul knows what he likes and what he doesn’t like. He wasn’t there to cause drama or to lead anyone on. If he was going to find love, it was going to be for real.
Back at Gnarloo, the morning that the girls were to arrive, Paul got his first taste of what filming was going to be like when a farm emergency occurred. The generator went down. Unlike the other farmers on the series Paul both owns the farm and is the most experienced worker. The farm has a series of freezers, which could not stop working. Paul was told in no uncertain terms that filming came first, and a smaller emergency generator was quickly installed, and rotated around the freezers. After the women went to bed about 11, Paul went out and spent the next few hours fixing the generator.
Unlike the other farmers, Paul also missed out on a wildcard girl arriving a few days into the farm stay. The episode showed Natalie calling Paul to empathise with him on juggling both the demands of Gnarloo, and his two ladies. To give him the best chance at love, she told him, they were not going to send him a third wildcard girl. The truth, Paul cheerfully tells me, was that she couldn’t get the time off work.
Anyone who watched the show would have perceived Paul as the independent older man, who realised mid-way that he prioritised the farm above a relationship. The show consistently portrayed him as neglecting the company of his two women, making it unsurprisingly that they both left early by their own choice. One particular Internet commentator wondered if Paul was actually aware that he was on a dating show. Luckily Paul has a sense of humour, and agreed to talk to me anyway. Paul’s only regret about his appearance on the show is the portrayal of him as a hermit who spends all his time with goats, and neglected the women entirely.
What didn’t we see? Paul’s brief fishing trip with Gen after the breakfast challenge was a solid 8 hours on the boat. There was a full morning alone with Vanessa where the two of them took a long walk around the windmills. Another day, Paul and the two girls spent a hilarious four hours tussling and wrestling with wild billy goats, attempting to tag them. Despite the endless shots of Paul working, he got almost no work done during the farm stay, devoting himself to the amusement of his guests. Every night after they retired to bed, Paul stayed up til 2 or 3am, completing the tasks that could not be put off for the week.
Despite the isolation of Gnarloo – 150km from the nearest town – Paul is far from being a hermit. Gnarloo began life as a sheep station, which was then converted into a tourist resort and abandoned. The city-born Irishman bought the farm after living in Bondi for a year and converted it into the wilderness tourist destination that it is today. There are four staff members on the farm, which runs 2000 sheep. There is also a campsite, where backpackers and tourists will work on the farm for their food and board in order to enjoy the nearby world-class reefs, beaches and surf. In their busiest season, the campsite will have up to 400 people in it. Paul is far from being a hermit.
The drama with Vanessa was real enough, and just a product of two people who wanted different things. Paul wanted to go on the show to meet someone, to start something. Vanessa wanted a husband. Conversations with the girls were strictly forbidden unless cameras were rolling, and Paul wasn’t ready to commit to someone he felt he still barely knew. Before she left, they ended things on good terms off camera, but it’s unlikely that anything more will ever happen on that front. He’s still single and open for a relationship, and now enjoying the brief flush of attention from attractive young ladies while he’s out and about – even if they’re just telling him how much their mums love him.
While he has no regrets in doing the show, Paul laughs when I ask him if he’d ever return for another season. He made some excellent friends, farmers, contestants and crew but now he knows what’s involved, he wouldn’t go back. It may be a one-off for the Irishman but he admits laughingly that if he were 20 years younger, he’d do it every weekend.