IFC's 'Whisker Wars' starts Aug. 5: In pursuit of the hirsute
The series follows the path of several follicularly endowed fellows from last summer's first-ever national competition in Bend, Ore., through to the recent world championship in Trondheim, Norway.
The cast is heavy on Californians, including the whiskered wizard of Walnut Creek -- two-time full beard natural champion Jack Passion (whom we profiled in May 2009 in the run-up to the world championships in Anchorage, Alaska) -- Aarne Bielefeldt, who hails from Willits, Calif., and who took top honors in the full beard category in Bend, and Phil Olsen, who serves as the self-appointed captain of Beard Team USA (BTUSA). Rounding out the regulars are Myk O'Connor from New York City and the good old boys of the Austin [Texas] Facial Hair Club, a crew that includes Bryan Nelson, Allen Demling and Miletus Callahan-Barile.
Following around a pack of guys who want to grow the world's greatest whiskers could be dull as dishwater, and while the show isn't exactly adrenaline-pumping, the show manages to serve up enough behind-the-scenes drama to interest even those who couldn't care less who wins in the pursuit for hirsute bragging rights, including a budding romance (did you know there are beard groupies?), charges of favoritism, internecine intrigue (the Austin club mulls over secession from BTUSA) and everyone's love-him-or-hate-him obsession with Jack Passion who, with an ego seemingly as large as his beard, seems bent on parlaying his status as reigning champion into a full-time, well-paying profession, complete with endorsement deals. (In a way he already has; both Passion and Olsen are listed in the show credits as consulting producers.)
The three screening episodes provided by IFC managed to capture much of the quirkiness of the competitive bearded bunch, as well as answer some of those nagging practical questions like how to eat sloppy barbecue (hair clips help pin back the beard) and how to coax your facial hair into a perfectly formed circle (a beer can and hair spray does the trick). And for those reasons alone it's worth tuning in to see where the rest of the season leads.
Oh, and there's one more reason: Aarne Bielefeldt ,who starts out as almost an accidental champion who stepped out of the woods of Northern California and onto the stage in Bend, Ore., and ends up becoming a kind of lederhosen- and feathered-hat-wearing heart, soul and spirit guide of the whole bearded bunch.
"Whisker Wars" premieres Friday, Aug. 5 at 11 p.m./ 10 p.m. Central on IFC.
-- Adam Tschorn
Photo: Two-time world champion beardsman Jack Passion, center, pictured in 2010 at a U.S. national competition in Bend, Ore., is one of the competitors at the center of "Whisker Wars," a docu-comedy series that starts its run on IFC on Aug, 5. Credit: Karolina Wojtasik / IFC