BY: Frazier Moore
AP Television Writer
And these “boys” aren’t sitcom characters. They’re real-life transplanted Manhattan urbanites who, somewhat on a whim, bought a two-century-old mansion named Beekman Manor plus the farm that went with it, then began a crash course in country living.
The result is on display in a docu-reality series premiering Wednesday at 9 p.m. EDT on Planet Green. It’s by turns funny, instructive, even inspirational (these guys just don’t quit!). And befitting its co-stars, it’s also fabulous.
The self-proclaimed Beekman Boys consist of Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, partners for a decade who boast diverse and downright colorful backgrounds.
Brent has been an assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and was vice president of healthy living at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.
Josh is a professional drag queen turned advertising exec, and a successful author whose just-published third book, The Bucolic Plague, serves as an unintended prequel to their TV series by recounting how he and Brent took the plunge into their rural lifestyle.
The charm of ‘The Fabulous Beekman Boys’ comes in part from witnessing their steep learning curve as they confront a slew of farm chores wildly alien to their past experience. Meanwhile, they strike a colorful contrast (and the occasional sparks) in how they navigate their new challenges.
For example, Brent, who tends the farm full time, wants it tidier than some people keep their studio apartment. (In his view, even a pig sty shouldn’t be a pig sty.)
Josh is more laid-back, especially since he arrives at the farm each Friday after toiling in Manhattan at his ad agency job to guarantee them a regular paycheck.
“It’s tough,” he sighs after one outburst of his partner’s lofty demands. “I have a dream, and then you take it and you turn it into this whole production.”
Serving as their onsite authority is ‘Farmer John’ Hall, a lifelong resident of their tiny village of Sharon Springs, N.Y., whose reigning passion is his herd of goats.
Beside growing provisions for their own use, the Beekman Boys have created an organic lifestyle brand, Beekman 1802, whose product line includes goat-milk soap and a goat-milk cheese covered with hardwood ash.
For this couple, the adventure began in 2007 when they bought the farm. But the seed was planted for the TV series a year ago when Josh met Laura Michalchyshyn, boss of Planet Green (as well as Discovery Health and FitTV).
“He started talking about the farm,” Michalchyshyn recalled recently. “He said, ‘We may fail, we may succeed, but we really want to give this a try.’”
Intrigued, she arranged to meet Brent a week later.
“I said, ‘You guys ever thought of doing a TV show?’ And they looked at me and said, ‘No one has asked us.’”
She asked. “It was one of those rare moments when the head of a network just says, ‘OK, let’s give this a shot.’”
Shooting started last July.
“We’re always game for new experiences,” Brent said about their TV venture. “We thought, ‘We might as well shoot a sizzle reel, since the odds that the series makes it to TV are really minuscule. It would make a great video scrapbook.’”
Of course, the series is going to make it to the air, with story lines focusing on whether they can keep their heads above water while keeping their relationship intact amid their many pressures.
“We almost lost the farm in 2008 when the bubble burst,” Josh said.
“But we’re very devoted to our community,” Brent chimed in, “and we always said if our company is successful, it will only be successful if other members of our community are successful as well.”
“Our main passion with the TV show,” Josh said, “is exposing small farming, small communities and what it means to be neighborly back to the rest of America.”
The series also reveals a new direction for Planet Green, said Michalchyshyn.
“We’re evolving the channel: What does it mean to consider sustainability, what does it mean to be part of something bigger? There’s been a lot of green-washing, eco-fatigue and an economy tanking. That can lead to a lecturing stance: ‘We’ve been bad. Now we have to pay for our bad behavior.’ That doesn’t make good television. Good stories do.”
The saga of the ‘The Fabulous Beekman Boys’ offers an example of everyday people who are making a challenging, potentially restorative change in their lives, she said.
“What we’re saying is, ‘It’s not about being green. It’s about being better.’”
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