"Derek can only fancy one of us," said Sarah about half way through Farmer Wants a Wife, a dating show with muddy wellies. Sarah was one of the two finalists who'd been invited to get to know Derek a little better by spending a week on the farm with him – and Sarah was absolutely wrong. She may know a lot about dogs and horses, but she doesn't know a lot about human husbandry if she doesn't understand that Derek was already beginning to wonder why he had to pick between quiet, sensible Sarah and bubbly, effervescent Karla, who had chastely described herself on her application as "master chef in the kitchen, maid in the house and complete whore in the bedroom". "Can't we live somewhere where I can have two wives," he murmured when it came time to choose, and I don't think he was entirely joking. If we're to be blunt about this – and what the hell, we're in our own homes here – then Karla had the edge as far as looks went, but she also had the effervescence, a strenuously raucous cheerfulness that you could easily imagine might begin to grate on long winter nights.
I'd guessed that Derek would plump for Sarah and Karla back when he made the first cut, after a quick round of speed dating at a country pub. It wasn't hard to call it right, frankly. Hannah was just a little too manicured and glamour model to sit well with muddy overalls, and Anna's confession that she was very interested in feng shui seemed to ditch her chances almost immediately. And when the two finalists turned up on the farm (to the deeply predictable strains of "Here Come the Girls"), Karla appeared to have decided that frontal assault by innuendo was the best tactic. "I reckon you could fit in my pants," she replied when Derek asked her an innocuous question about compatibility, and when he took both women on a balloon ride to survey the domain she saucily identified Derek's farmhouse as "where me and you are bunking up". Meanwhile, Sarah was just looking increasingly testy.
It struck you that both women were really after a life on a farm and didn't mind too much if a farmer came with it. They gamely cleaned out agricultural drains and learned to drive the tractor, pretending that they had an emotional investment in what eventually happened. But then both of them – obedient one presumes to the encouragement of the director – began insisting that real feelings had genuinely started to intrude. It looked to me as if they'd all got giddy in the vortex of attention a television camera can generate, but by the time Derek had to send one of them packing there were sniffles all round and more claims of deep emotion.
"I'm stuck to find a positive because either way someone is going to get hurt," said Karla. Well, that's what can happen when you lower your defences and listen to the smooth, seductive talk of television executives, love. By now, Derek was beginning to think of himself as a kind of Austin Powers of arable farming, an illusion only strengthened when Karla celebrated her selection with yet more innuendo in the barn. "Do you want me to help you put your tools away?" she murmured as he decoupled something from his tractor.
If it struck you that this had about as much chance of sticking as the average holiday fling you were right. Next time Derek saw Karla in London, she announced that she was off to Australia for three months and he promptly called up Sarah to fill her place. This rather put in perspective Derek's earlier claim to be a "passionate romantic" and left you wondering how their marriage – if it comes to that – would accommodate this somewhat awkward opening chapter once the honeymoon period had faded.