reality tv become a farmer

Forget ‘Clarkson’s Farm’: This New Farming Reality Show is Hot in China

iQiyi’s new program ‘Become A Farmer’ features 10 Gen Z idols, including singer Li Hao and members of C-pop group Zero-G, farming in East China’s Hangzhou

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6:11 AM HKT, Tue February 28, 2023 2 mins read

In a country where celebrities and idols are typically expected to maintain youth and beauty, this new reality TV show produced by Chinese streaming platform iQiyi has taken the internet by surprise: Become A Farmer sends 10 Gen Z male idols to a farm in East China’s Hangzhou city for 190 days.

On the Chinese review platform Douban, it boasts an impressive rating of 8.5/10. You can watch the first episode on YouTube with English subtitles:

The new program, which debuted in early February, features 10 relatively unknown idols born between 1995 and 2004.

The cast includes actor Chen Shaoxi, singers Jiang Dunhao, Li Hao, and He Haonan, as well as members of the boy band Zero-G, Lu Zhuo and Zhuo Yuan, along with Wang Yiheng, Zhao Yibo, Zhao Xiaotong, and Li Gengyun. Notably, the farming show is the only public appearance listed on the Baidu pages of the latter four.

To broaden its appeal, the program’s creators also brought on well-known guests, including stand-up comedians Xu Zhisheng and Pang Bo, as well as actor Gong Jun, who gained recognition for his role in the 2021 boys’ love drama Word of Honor.

In the show, the young idols are tasked with farming a massive piece of land, including a river and three fishponds. All proceeds from their efforts will be given to the individual who holds the rights to the land.

While it remains to be seen whether they will successfully complete the mission, it has been reported that they obtained licenses for operating tractors and reapers in preparation for the show.

The concept may not be groundbreaking to Western audiences, who have seen similar shows like The Farm and The Simple Life in the 2000s. And more recently, celebrity farming has gained renewed attention with the Clarkson’s Farm series, hosted by English broadcaster, journalist, and TV host Jeremy Clarkson, which has been widely watched around the globe.

However, agriculture-focused programs are still a niche area within the Chinese entertainment market.

become a farmer

Promotional poster for Become A Farmer

Become A Farmer selected 30 participants from a pool of 200 applicants and filmed them working on three different farms. Eventually, only one group of 10 candidates was chosen for broadcast.

The program places these idols in an unquestionably down-to-earth situation, offering a unique perspective for viewers. To further personalize the experience, the participants regularly livestreamed their work on the farm and shared their farming knowledge with the audience.

In addition to demanding farm work, the 10 idols also faced challenging living conditions. They stayed in an abandoned warehouse that required considerable cleaning and upkeep and suffered from leaks and power outages during heavy rain.

The TV show highlights the recent shift in China’s idol industry, which has gradually moved away from idolizing ‘little fresh meat,’ male celebrities known for their delicate and feminine features.

Since iQiyi’s 2018 viral boy group survival show Idol Producer, more than 10 similar programs have been produced, successfully promoting a group of young male celebrities with fresh, fair-skinned looks, such as Cai Xukun and Wang Yibo. However, due to the misbehavior of some idols, including the infamous Kris Wu, and the increasingly unhealthy fan culture and economy, China banned idol survival shows in 2021.

Moreover, the government has publicly denounced the rise of ‘sissy boys’ or effeminate male artists in the entertainment sphere. As a result, many male celebrities, even those previously known for embracing the ‘little fresh meat’ aesthetic, are now conforming to traditional norms of masculinity, such as taking on jobs that involve physical labor, like farming.

Become A Farmer also reflects China’s growing fascination with rural lifestyles, possibly spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic and the nation’s now-revoked anti-disease measures, which brought life in many Chinese cities to a standstill over the past few years.

Another notable example of the growing popularity of rural lifestyles in China is the 2023 romantic drama Meet Yourself, which tells the story of a group of young people revitalizing a historical village called Fengyang by running a hostel. Following the show’s release, searches for the town on the Chinese tour booking app Fliggy increased by a whopping 50 times.

meet yourself

Liu Yifei in Meet Yourself

While the cast of Meet Yourself, which includes Liu Yifei from Disney’s Mulan and Annabel Yao, the younger daughter of Huawei’s founder, certainly contributed to the hype, the natural beauty of the rural region has also captured the hearts of many netizens.

It is unclear whether Become A Farmer will stimulate rural tourism, but it is safe to say that the show is gaining popularity and has the potential to be one of the top Chinese reality programs this year.

All images via Weibo

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