{mosimage}Farmer Wants a Wife (Wednesday, 9 p.m. CW) cooks up a reality-show fantasy about city women finding true love with a hunky farmer. Matt is right out of central casting, with a square jaw, chivalrous manner and 200 acres in the middle of Missouri. The women clomp through his fields on high heels, hoping to be the fish-out-of-water he chooses. They take hay rides, engage in farmwife competitions and giggle inanely. None of them can fairly be called a city slicker. Even Matt’s chickens seem more urbane.

If all of the contestants are stupid on Farmer Wants a Wife, one of them is stupid and scary. 

“I fight for men like they do in the Middle East,” says Josie. “Before someone blows me up, I blow them up.”

Even suicide bombers might find that a sick metaphor for courtship. But Josie is just getting warmed up. She calls the lone black contestant “low class and ghetto,” suggests that the farm be burned down for the insurance money, and urges Jews and Christians to band together to bring on Armageddon.

Farmer wants a psychopath?

Secrets of the Dead

Wednesday, 8 p.m. (PBS)

Escape from Auschwitz details one of the most extraordinary tales of heroism from World War II, and I’d wager few people have heard it. Rudolph Vrba and Alfred Wetzler were Slovak Jews imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz. Escape was impossible, as had been proven many times, but these two had the brains and guts to beat impossible odds.

The Germans had fooled the world about the death camps’ purpose, and Vrba and Wetzler wanted to get out and broadcast the truth. Their ingenious plan involved hiding inside a woodpile in a work area outside the camp gate. They smeared themselves with gasoline-soaked tobacco to mask their scent from the Nazi dogs. They stayed still for three days of intense searching, imagining the torture in store for them if discovered. Then they snuck out of the woodpile and headed south through occupied Poland, dodging Nazis for 85 miles. Miraculously, they crossed the Slovakian border and revealed the horrors of Auschwitz to the authorities.

No one believed them.

Folks, if you’re ever approached by two desperate men with shaved heads, prison garb, the stench of gasoline and numbers tattooed onto their arms, please give them the benefit of the doubt.

Ringo Starr: Off the Record

Friday, 11 p.m. (HBO)

Every second of the Beatles’ career has been chronicled in innumerable books, articles and documentaries. But now, 40 years later, someone has just thought to ask Ringo Starr for his view of the matter. The underachieving drummer tells fellow English rocker Dave Stewart what it was like to sit behind three of the most important men in rock.

Will Ringo shed light on the Beatles’ greatest music? No, but he will take us deep inside the two songs he wrote for the group. “I’d like to be/under the sea” č how did he come up with that?

The Shell Seekers

Saturday, 9 p.m. (Hallmark Channel)

It’s your basic Hallmark Channel movie about an old woman coming to terms with her life. But this one stars Vanessa Redgrave, and that makes all the difference. Redgrave redeems the sentimental story of Penelope, who tries to make peace with her selfish children following a heart attack. First, there’s the actress’ sheer presence. Just standing in the middle of the screen, Redgrave commands your full attention. Then there are her glances, which speak volumes. Then there are her line readings, which reveal all the subtle shadings of the human heart.

If you were a third-tier TV movie director who’d lucked into Vanessa Redgrave in your cast, wouldn’t you train the camera on her at all times? Maddeningly, The Shell Seekers keeps cutting to flashbacks featuring some wooden actress as the young Penelope. I’ve never hated the past so much in my life.

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