Lit’s like it’s amish season again. While the kohlrabi are fattening every summer and the cattle are maturing on the vine, there comes a time every few years when the TV shows are filled with tales of ordinary people who are eager to throw off the yoke of late-western capitalism and try to find deeper fulfillment by to disturb the immediate peaceful Anabaptist sect and refuse to adapt to its ways. In the past, we’ve had Living with the Amish (and various similar titles), How to Get to Heaven With the Hutterites, and related documentaries such as Inside the Bruderhof, all set up to show us the flaw in our crowded, consumerist ways.
Welcome, this time, to The Simpler Life (Channel 4). Here, 24 Britons from the young to the Middle Ages are taken to Devon to live for six months on a 16-acre farm under Ohio’s Edna and Lloyd Miller’s rule, with no electricity or gas, no food beyond what they grow themselves – or find in the shop cupboard – and without any control over what happens to them in the edit.
The stupid, unnecessary glare that is put into the effort is that this is a brave scientific experiment (designed by California psychologist Prof Barry Schwartz) to find out if hateful people who do not like to work are better off. agriculture without electricity and building a community with two dozen strangers than those who are sensible people and have a clue what a day’s transplant means. Or not.
Honestly, this is such nonsense you have to laugh. For god’s sake, it’s 2022, we’re 800 years into a pandemic, 72 hours away from World War III, and the planet is on fire. Just point the cameras at the screen feed and let’s see them for an hour and try to live without electricity and Nando’s.
Our first heroes are the double-bar Jamie (a 20-year-old GP receptionist) and his friend Jerome (an NHS administrator). Jamie has never left town before and expresses some concern about the impending endeavor, especially the livestock element. “Are you afraid of a chicken?” asks Jerome. Not in the singular, says Jamie. “But if 10 runs after you – that’s a no-go.”
The first villain is former football player’s PA Penny. She is amazed at Lloyd’s introductory speech on the Amish philosophy of thinking and working collectively and putting the group before the individual. “You must put yourself first, right?” she says to the search camera afterwards. “No, you do not,” says younger daughter Azara. “I so agree with them,” says the older daughter Dilara. Again, we remind ourselves that everything depends on the editing. But it seems that as time goes on, Penny gives them a lot to work with. She has not been there five minutes before demanding to go to the shops instead of eating out of the cupboard (“There is absolutely nothing here!” She moans, in the middle of the shelves moaning with preserves and preserves) while they wait for the first crops to come in and insist that her children starve, and generally seem to be reasonably willing to do anything but make a prank out of themselves (this is Amish expression that I just found on) in the next six months. We are solemnly informed that on the psychoblimpblomp tests that all participants took before starting the project, Penny scored low on “agreableness” and optimism, very low on “need to be part of a group” and high on “desire for power “. Amazing.
Then it’s like every other of these programs you’ve ever seen. “Some of the work is broken down by premodern gender roles,” says the voiceover, who is a way of saying that any return to simplicity generally depends on the women being shuttled back home for a tedious repetitive round of hand washing. and dishes, and to make – without any modern facilities – huge group meals three times a day. IT project manager Fran takes pride in keeping people happy, but notes that she does not know what is happening on the farm because she never has time to go outside. “I’m a human, lonely dishwasher,” she says. While this invisible and non-medical work continues indefinitely, almost literally behind every scene, we focus on the fine, visibly productive and rewarding life men have – learning to farm, travel barns and return home for the delicious meals that have emerged as if by magic.
What can you say? It’s fun to watch. We’ve seen it all before. It does not tell us anything new. Lovely people, it turns out, get cute. Shitebags gonna Shitebag. Some life lessons will be claimed to have been learned at the end of the six-part series. Maybe Penny will score higher in her comfort test eventually, or maybe they kill her and bury her under the kohlrabi. I can in no way say that I do not care. Can you?