Gay city couple goes rural on new reality show

If “Green Acres” were a reality show starring a gay married couple, it would probably be a lot like “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” the new show premiering June 16 on the Planet Green channel.

The show follows Josh Kilmer-Purcell, an ad exec and bestselling author, and his partner Brent Ridge, a doctor and former vice president at Martha Stewart Omnimedia, as they transition from New York City dwellers to farm owners in the small upstate town of Sharon Springs, N.Y.

Of course there are some difficulties along the way for the couple. Kilmer-Purcell spends most of the week working in the city while Ridge tends the farm and the organic product brand the two have launched. It quickly becomes apparent that Kilmer-Purcell would prefer to be on the farm all the time.

“That’s one of the big sources of conflict in the series,” Ridge said. “I’m living Josh’s dream. But it just so happened that in order to grow the business, one of us had to make that sacrifice and he had the more stable job. So he’s working in the city to pay the mortgage and I’m up here trying to make the farm [operate] so that it can eventually it can pay the mortgage.”

Kilmer-Purcell agreed that the arrangement is for the best.

“I realized that Brent has his MBA,” he said, “so if the business has a chance of succeeding it probably is more likey to be run by an MBA than an art director.”

Another obstacle for the couple is the fact that they know very little about running a farm. Luckily they have the help of Farmer John, whose skills, affinity for farm life and easygoing nature come in handy for the new farm owners.

“We were both raised in semi-rural environments so we both feel pretty at home in the country,” Kilmer-Purcell said. “Farming, of course, is hardcore country. It took a little longer to get used to that. Having Farmer John around is like having a live-in mentor. That’s how we learned.”

Ridge added that Farmer John has no interest in experiencing the city life they are trying to get away from.

“We have offered to take him into the city, but he has been really reluctant,” he said. “We live three hours outside of the city. He’s lived there all his life. He’s never ventured out into the city. He really just has no desire. He just wants to be on the farm raising the goats. That’s what he feels is his life’s calling.”

Kilmer-Purcell and Ridge aren’t the only gay couple calling Sharon Springs home. The two quickly bond with another couple, Doug and Garth, longtime residents of the town who own and operate a hotel there. Ridge credits the couple with paving the way for them in that small town.

“For the longest time, people thought they were brothers,” Ridge said. “People thought it was impossible that they were a gay couple. They have just been such catalysts in helping to revive the village that they’ve really gained the respect of so many people in the area. Doug is head of the village board. We call them the gay pioneers and they really were. They opened a lot of peoples’ eyes in the community.”

“I’ve always said that homophobia is a luxury of people who have nothing better to do,” Kilmer-Purcell added. “In rural America, people have jobs and lives. They’re very busy people. They’re all concerned with getting by in their lives and helping out their neighbors when they need help. There’s not a lot of time to sit around and not like your neighbor.”

Peripheral townies aside, the show is all about watching the strain on the couple’s relationship as they try to make their dream of running a farm and eco-friendly business come true. Both work hard at keeping things going, but while Kilmer-Purcell is the more laidback of the two, Ridge is the taskmaster. And after watching themselves engage in a clash of wills on the small screen, it doesn’t look like the disagreements between them are going to end anytime soon.

“I’m totally convinced that I’m right all the time,” Kilmer-Purcell said.

“That’s nothing new,” Ridge admitted. “He’s always convinced that he’s right.”

Kilmer-Purcell’s latest book, “The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers” is in stores now. “The Beekman Boys” premieres at 9 p.m. June 16 on Planet Green. For more information, visit www.beekman1802.com.

Larry Nichols can be reached at [email protected].