“Some people like to garden, some people like motorcycle riding … my hobby is winning,” boasts Jack Passion, the designated villain on Whisker Wars.
As for winning at what, exactly — Passion’s appearance offers a big hint. His full, 2-foot-long red beard has won him a slew of titles on the circuit of competitive bearding, which, up until recently, has been a little known “sport” (bearders’ word, not ours). But he and his rivals, as well as their meticulously preened facial hair, now star in a seven-episode series on IFC.
Whisker Wars, which debuted on Friday, focuses on the bitter rivalries among American bearding competitors, pitching Passion as the arrogant champion whom others are eager to dethrone. The U.S. winners will then go on to compete in an international competition to face off with the tough-to-beat German team.
The show’s creator, Thom Beers, is an old hand at coming up with unusual reality-TV ideas that explore a male-dominated profession or pursuit. The most successful is Deadliest Catch, which follows crab catchers to the Bering Sea and introduced memorable characters and heartfelt storylines amid rocky and wet fishing expeditions.
But TV critics are lamenting that Whisker Wars does not delve much into the characters’ personal lives and psyches to answer the question: What compels these men to shape their mustaches with rollers and seek titles for having the best facial hair in the world?