‘Bless This Mess’ is a fun take on homesteading stereotypes

'Bless This Mess' is a new ABC comedy.
Image courtesy of ABC

ABC’s new comedy “Bless This Mess” premiered to mixed reviews Tuesday night with critics taking the show to task for everything from its failure to address the current political climate to trying too hard to get traction out of the standard “fish out of water” plot line.

But I, for one, loved the pilot episode of ‘Bless This Mess’ because it let me relive the comedic highs and lows of my own early life on a rural homestead. I identified with the characters and laughed at my own homesteading smugness.

If you missed it, here’s a quick plot premise: Dax Shepard and Lake Bell play Mike and Rio who — after a year of argument-free marital bliss — decide to chuck their New York City lives for a new start farming in Nebraska on land Mike inherited from a recently deceased aunt.

Shepard and Bell are totally believable as the sensitive music journalist and empathetic therapist, respectively, they play.

Image courtesy of ABC/John Fleenor

Rounding out the cast is a wonderful Ed Begley Jr. as Rudy who, for reasons not yet explained, lives in their barn, and Pam Grier as the small Nebraska town’s general store owner, sheriff and director of the local theater group.

The Hollywood Reporter summed the pilot episode, which shows Mike and Rio driving cross country towing a UHaul with what looked like a Prius and stopping along the way to “frolic” in a hayfield, as “‘Green Acres’ meets ‘The Money Pit.’”

Pretty close.

Still, watching Mike and Rio’s expression as they see the dilapidated house for the first time is classic. Especially given Rio’s earlier excitement showing off photos of the house taken in — unbeknownst to her — better times and describing her future farm life as “living in a Pinterest project,” assuming she can get over her fear of cows.

For his part, Mike is ready to draw upon his vast farming knowledge gleaned from shopping the produce aisles at Whole Foods to turn the farm in an organic, heirloom food producer in no time.

It all struck pretty close to home for me. Having myself moved from a city to a rural farm here in northern Maine, I get their excitement. Before actually growing a garden or raising any meat animals, the closest I had come to seeing how food was produced was school field trips to a dairy farm and grocery shopping with my mother.

For city folk, country life can be a bit of a shock.

I had always assumed you dug a hole, put in some seeds and things just grew. I mean, it seemed to work with the bean-seed science projects back in elementary school.

Not so much in real life. Oh, things grew on our northern Maine farm. It’s just that most of it was not what we wanted to see growing . Much of our crop were weeds that had to be pulled, chopped, clubbed or straight out blasted with chemicals to allow the edible plants even a chance of sprouting.

People with a green thumb at least have a fighting chance at successful gardening and growing food. My thumb is so ungreen I am like the grim reaper when it comes to plants. If I am not killing them due to neglect I am running over them with the tractor.

Image courtesy of ABC/John Fleenor

Anyone who has faced repairing a leaky roof or sagging floor for the first time can sympathize with Mike’s enthusiastic, but ineffectual use of his shiny new hammer, something he only swings after putting on plastic safety goggles.

Most newbie couple-carpenters can also relate to the mishap involving a rooftop argument, a fallen ladder and the storm that locals accurately forecast “was a’comin.”

Likewise, anyone facing those projects knows fixer upper tasks tackled as a couple is among the best and quickest ways to epic blow-ups. Even between even the happiest of couples.

Trust me on that.

There are times when no matter how wrong you are doing something — say like patching a roof — the last thing you need or want is your life partner on the ground below shouting suggestions based on Google searches.

Or let’s say you have followed instructions from your partner to the letter when patching a shed roof with new asphalt shingles. I ask you if you are told to pound in nails every two inches, what would you do?

I’ll tell you what not to do — pound them in every two inches in all directions. Something my late husband only noticed when I had been wildly hammering in the same spot for a half hour.

Those nails were so close together, I think that small patch of shed roof qualified as the first metal roof in northern Maine.

Image courtesy of ABC/John Fleenor

Mike and Rio quickly learn their new life is anything but a Pinterest project. It’s really more like an ongoing “This Old House,” minus the expertise of Bob Villa or the budget that show provides.

But, like most of the bright-eyed, optimistic new back to the landers I have met, Mike and Rio are, for the moment, all-in to make this work.

Likewise, their neighbors — all experienced farmers well versed in rural life — are like many of the successful homesteaders I have met. Unfailingly helpful with practical advice and expertise, but pretty damn skeptical newcomers are going to make it.

I’m rooting for Mike and Rio.

And I can’t wait for the first time they drive a tractor.

1 comment
  1. Lisali Steele says

    I watched and will reserve my judgement until I’ve seen a few more episodes. I have mixed feelings about the show. On the one hand, I’m thrilled that the exodus to the country, the desire to become more self-sufficient, and all that has finally made it to a major network. I’m on board with any show that features CHICKENS!!!!

    On the other hand, I fear that there will be a marked lack of research, prior planning, etc. involved in order to keep the comedic theme running throughout the series – and that unfortunately is a common theme with real life “homesteaders” as well. It’s one thing to kill a crop, its another to start raising animals with no previous experience or without doing your homework. When animal lives are at stake, it’s not funny to just dive in haphazardly.

    Fingers crossed, the producers handle this topic with care.

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