If the hirsute heroes of Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers, and Ax Men haven’t fully satisfied your appetite for bearded he-men, the executive producer of those gems has ditched the “tough vocation” façade and introduced a show that’s purely about the fur: IFC's Whisker Wars, which debuts Fri/5. The show trails men around the U.S. as they prep and groom for the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Trondhjem, Norway with the long-standing champs of Germany looming in the distance.
Competition categories run the gamut from Freestyle to Full Beard Natural (in one contender’s analogy, that boils down to “synchronized diving vs. marathon”). The former measures artistry and ingenuity, the latter demands “an unbroken line of unshaven ace from the temple to the chin to the other temple … to achieve natural fullness, size, and shape.” For some reason, Miss Oregon serves as a judge for the U.S. Nationals (where California beards killed, as we reported at the time) and looks repulsed as she’s forced to stroke and yank at waist-length beards. That face – filled with a bittersweet mix of disgust and morbid curiosity – seems to be the main driver of the documentary’s entertainment value.
We watch the dueling egos of the men, their interactions with surprisingly sane spouses, and overall grooming techniques. Reigning champ Jack Passion is derided for his narcissism and book deal, while Aarne Bielfeldt serves as a charming foil: a man who lives in the forest and is an avid harpsichordist. Bielfeldt’s beard is a dangling gray, though coincidentally, most of the men on Whisker Wars (including Passion) sport brilliant red beards of varying length and texture.
The beardsmen (beardos?) struggle with everyday tasks, such as eating, and other not-so-everyday tasks, like multiple brushing sessions. Just watching them wrangle unruly facial hair is exhausting, though the show is unexpectedly watchable, mostly because it isn't afraid to acknowledge the self-seriousness and absurdity of it all.
Whisker Wars premieres Fri, August 5 at 11 p.m. on IFC.