OK, so I’ve been avoiding this for too long. It just seemed too obvious, I guess. But if you want to embrace life, really embrace it, you should pause every now and again and acknowledge true genius when you see it. Even if it is blatantly obvious.
This is the greatest television commercial I have ever seen.
That is the commercial for the Farmer’s Only dating site, and it’s so brilliant -- so utterly dazzling -- that, like a great novel, I’m constantly finding something new and unexpectedly luminous in it. What I think makes the Farmer’s Only commercial even better than legends of the past like the Snuggie or The Hawaii Chair is that it hits an extraordinary high point, then somehow hits another higher point, then hits yet another even higher point and then finally, when you believe that the volume is all the way to 10 and there’s no place left to go, goes one higher. Our story begins with three utterly unappealing people who apparently are supposed to be farmers though, realistically, they seem to have escaped from the 1978 set of Hee Haw. One wears suspenders and looks about 55. I shall call him Horatio. A second wears a green cap, boot, has a potbelly going over his jeans and stands near a dog. He shall be , for our purposes, Cinna. A third, the smart one apparently, wears a red cap and seems wistful in a Gomer Pyle sort of way. Let us call him Gomer.
It’s a bold move starting a commercial seemingly aimed at farmers by casting three actors who look like the awful and insulting cliche image of farmers that might be dreamed up by somebody who has never been outside of Los Angeles. But the genius has only begun.
The "farmers" are, of course, standing in front of a barn. Our tale begins with Horatio, who is telling a story.
Horatio: So I’m reelin’ her in, and that fish was that big.
Horatio holds out his hands so they are approximately 22 inches apart.
Cinna: No, it was only that big.
Cinna holds out his hands a mere 12 or so inches apart. The camera pans to the resting dog.
Gomer (as he looks at his cell phone): I gotta find myself a nice country girl already.
Horatio leans over too look at this magical device of Gomer’s. Cinna points at it suspiciously.
Cinna: On that thing?
Gomer: Yep. Farmersonly.com.
The camera cuts to a shot of Gomer holding the phone. On it is a young woman in shorts who is looking at us but also, apparently, fishing. Anyway she his holding some sort of fishing rod.
Horatio: Wow, she sure is pretty.
Cinna: And she likes to fish too!
Camera cuts to dog, who also seems to want to see the girl but cannot get anyone’s attention.
Gomer: Boys, I’ve found myself a date. Gotta go.
At this point -- we are now halfway into the commercial -- and we have already achieved a pretty high level of excellence. Let’s say you are the target of Farmers Only. Let’s say you are a country woman who doesn’t particularly care for the city, who likes the simple American life and would like to meet a nice guy with similar interests and pastimes and passions. There are many millions of people like this, lonely people who, through no fault of their own, keep running into dead ends when it comes to meeting people. Here’s a dating site that might fit their lives, a dating site with no pretensions -- it’s CALLED Farmers Only, for crying out loud. This really could be the place.
OK: Could there be a bigger nightmare on earth than putting your profile on the dating site and having THESE THREE GUYS poring over it?
But, the commercial has barely warmed up. Gomer has exited. And we are left with Horatio and Cinna in a familiar scene, back in front of the barn.
Horatio: I’m tellin’ ya, that fish was this big.
Again, he puts his hands apart 22 inches. The camera cuts to Cinna, who seems changed somehow.
Cinna (holding a new contraption called a computer): “What’s the name of that dating site again?”
Yes, you know women everywhere are thrilled THIS GUY figured out how to use a computer. But now the commercial explodes. There’s the rosebud scene in Citizen Kane. There’s the final scene in Sixth Sense. There’s the final angel’s appearance in “A Christmas Carol,” and the scene where Boo Radley comes to the rescue in “To Kill A Mockingbird.” There’s that extraordinary moment in the Bible when Moses asks in a roundabout way for the name of God, and from the burning bush God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”
Cinna asks “What’s the name of that dating site again?” And ... well ... three astonishing words.
The ... dog ... speaks.
I have come to realize that I have spent much of life in search of an answer. But I never knew the question. Now, as I close in on my 47th birthday, I finally know what I seek. The question is: “Why does that dog speak on the Farmer’s Only commercial?” Why? What combination of genius and madness and inspiration and drunkedness compelled the makers to have the dog speak? What was that pitch meeting like? What were they going for? How did they find a speaking dog?
I am no closer to an answer now than perhaps I will ever be. And if the commercial ended here, it would be magnificent, utterly magnificent, but no, it pushes forward because as Horatio and Cinna look down at the dog and then at each other in amazement -- apparently their dog had never had something interesting enough to say before -- a lovely little song begins.
You don’t have to be lonely. At Farmers Only dot com. OK, wait a minute, that song is, what, 11 words long (assuming Farmers Only dot com is four words). That’s not many words. So how could they have so totally whiffed on one of the eleven words. Shouldn’t it be: “You don’t have to be lonely WITH Farmer’s Only dot com?” Wouldn't that be the point -- that with Farmer's Only out there you don't have to be lonely? But that's not what it says. It says, "At." Why would somebody be lonely AT Farmer’s Only? Is this a worrisome possibility? And if it is, should they really be advertising it in the commercial?
And so, finally, with that song, we think we’re at the peak of Olympus. The country folk have conquered both their fear or loneliness and technology. The dog has spoken. The song has been sung. We are sure that it’s over. But, no, not here -- there is one more push. There is the piece de resistance.
And that is: The slogan which appears as the commercial ends.
“CITY FOLKS JUST DON’T GET IT!”
It’s almost the perfect commercial. There’s only one way I could even imagine it being better. And that is is if the final words had been “Les citadins ne comprennent tout simplement pas.”
That’s my best effort (brilliant reader Mr. Furious' help) of “City folks just don’t get it” in French.