More than once, Happiness has thought of going all Green Acres -- chucking this city life for the simpler pleasures of farm living.
And now we role models. Premiering tonight is "The Fabulous Beekman Boys" (Planet Green, 9 pm), a docu-series chronicling Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge, a couple who bought a farm in upstate New York and created an organic life (with goats, goat's milk cheese and pigs) and an organic lifestyle brand "Beekman 1802."
The show is funny and personal, following the guys as they navigate this new venture and new life. Though a doctor, Ridge does know a little something about farming. He's a native of Randleman, a small town near Asheboro, and he says his grandparents and his mom are great gardeners. "You know how tough that red clay in North Carolina is. I learned how to coax tomatoes out of almost anything."
Ridge is a former Martha Stewart vice president, so he also got an up-close look at creating a brand. Not that he didn't have his own smarts. "I was a doctor, but I had gone back to business school for marketing and strategy," he says of life pre-Martha. "Martha was my first job after that. She is still a great mentor. She makes two appearances on the show and she thinks we are fabulous."
While Ridge acknowledges that show is a great promotional vehicle for the 'Beekman 1802' products (the name is from the name of the mansion they live in), he says the couple didn't come up with the idea of the show.
They moved to Sharon Springs, started their new life and began keeping a blog, that morphed into a full website. The site grew, earning 100,000 unique visitors a week. They added a free newsletter and the president of Planet Green got on their mailing list. She emailed them through their website, requesting a conversation, and during a meeting offered them the show.
"We were reluctant. We said we don't want to do anything that makes us look stupid," Ridge says. Assured, they moved forward and he likes the result. "I think what they produced is beautiful, tasteful and entertaining."
A big part of the show evolves around the toll the pair's move takes on their relationship. Much of the tension comes from the fact that Kilmer-Purcell (a former, pretty fabulous drag queen and now ad exec and best-selling author) still works in the city during the week, while Ridge (a Type A guy who actually demands the tractors be parked in a line) stays on the farm all week. Unlike some reality shows, the tensions feel very real.
"What's interesting about our show is that most reality shows are done within a six-week period, so they have to contrive what's happening," says Ridge. "Like they go on a trip or something like that. With our show, they followed us for a full year. It was a small team of people, seven who work on the show. You get to know them as well as you know some of your friends. So the conversations are real and truthful."
The Boys aren't on the farm alone; they get help from Farmer John, a goat herder, who weeps when talking about his love of his herd. There are also an assortment of townsfolk, who Ridge describes as 'key players, they're always happy to do something interesting.'
The townsfolk, too, seems happy with what they've seen of the show. "We did the world premiere in the town. There are about 500 people in the village and 300 showed up. They gave it a standing ovation in the end."
Another key player: Polka Spot the llama. She's a bit of a diva. She even has her own Twitter account.
"Anytime the camera comes in the pasture or the barn, she zeroes in on it," says Ridge. "Sometimes we had to stop the scene." (Ridge theorizes that the shape of the camera looks like a llama mama head and that's the allure.)
While mostly a romp, Ridge believes "The Fabulous Beekman Boys" also hopes the show can be inspirational, specifically in extolling the virtues of community. "We think of our neighbors as hidden treasure. That's how we've grown our business. We walk into a house and say 'oh what's that.' And it might be an antique loom. And we say, 'We'll design linens and you'll weave them.' These are great artists we're working with."
"We want to inspire people to say 'there are great people in my community we haven't reached out to.'"