Whisked away by Whisker Wars
January 29th, 2013 by Chris Humpherys
I’ve been watching a fair amount of IFC lately.
By the time I get home in the morning, there’s always some sort of alternative programming on that’s worth the watch. Don’t get me wrong, they air just as much garbage as the other major networks but I dig me some Portlandia and any channel that routinely shows classics like Full Metal Jacket, Fight Club, Miller’s Crossing and 2001: A Space Odyssey at all hours of the night is good in my book.
Recently, IFC has been promoting the hell out of this show called Whisker Wars that I’d never seen before. As you already know, I don’t watch much reality TV. I find it annoying, mind-numbing and most definitely not based in “reality” as the tag suggests but since football season is coming to a close, I figured I’d have enough spare time to waste on another distraction. While Whisker Wars might not be sports-related in the old-fashioned sense of the term, a bunch of dudes traveling around the world to participate in “competitive bearding” was off-kilter enough for me to give it a try.
The show airs Friday nights at 10 pm, although can you imagine the kind of people who stay in on Friday nights to watch guys grow beards?
“Hey, Mildred, whatcha wanna do tonight?”
“I don’t know. How ‘bout we stay in and watch us some Whisker Wars!”
I guess I shouldn’t judge since I’m watching the show myself. I’ll say hi to Mildred for you.
Wars initially attracted my attention because of a) IFC’s incessant self-promotion and b) the characters seemed genuinely weird, and not contrived as the other reality TV shows which are replete with those who want to cash in on their fifteen minutes of lame.
I went into Season Two blind, with no background information other than what I had seen on the previews. There’s some dude, who calls himself Jack Passion, with a big ass beard, who a bunch of other guys, also with big ass beards, can’t stand. Passion is the defending champion of all things beardness and weirdness. I have no idea if Passion is his real name (guessing not) but I’m assuming he spends a fair amount of his reality TV pay on conditioner and combs and not suits and ties.
And so I delved goatee-first into Whisker Wars with the unrealistic and firmly grounded hopes of finding original entertainment, wondering how many episodes I’d actually watch before giving up entirely. IMDB’s paltry 2.5 (out of 10) rating scared me but I was determined to find out what would prompt a network to create a weekly television show out of guys who refused to shave.
I soon found out.
The episodes are full of bearded dudes who, as you might imagine, work in health foods stores, live on compounds and drink a lot of mead. You also won’t be surprised to find out the show features guys named Myk, Miletus and Aarne or that they have facial hair clubs for men, none of which I plan on subscribing to after watching the series.
To be perfectly honest, I fell asleep during Episode One, perhaps because it was boring but more likely because I had worked four doubles in a row. In the subsequent episodes, however, we find competitors traveling from Columbus, Ohio to Brooklyn, New York to Austin, Texas to Portland, Oregon where we actually witness a minor scuffle between competitors that rivals your average NBA fight. (FYI… basketball players can’t fight.)
With every open, Whisker Wars teases the grand finale: the German International Beard and Moustache Championships. The season-long objective of the string of US competitions is to gather enough strongly-bearded Americans to conquer the world’s greatest non-shavers in international competition, despite their constant bickering.
The most heart-warming story of the season has to do with the soft-spoken, German-born Aarne Bielefeldt who switches from the main competition to what they call “freestyle.” He goes on a bearding tear from there on out, winning competition after competition in that category.
In the end, I grew tired of Whisker Wars partially because of my short attention span, partially because the program didn’t really provide me with anything new and mostly because I just didn’t want to watch grown men with facial hair down to their knees bitch about this and that.
Maybe next time I’ll listen to IMBD.