viewing guide

Which TV Beard Is Right for You?

Do you prefer the Unkempt Hot Dad Beard? The Closely Shaved Well-Kept Beard? The Basically Stubble Beard? Well, do we have the show for you. Photo: From left: Courtesy of NBC, CBS, Netflix

In this sprawling and unwieldily post-Peak TV era, how should you choose which show to invest your time in next? Maybe you read a great review. Maybe the show was created by or stars someone whose work you love. Or maybe you’re just chasing that sweet, sweet high of perfect beard content. Long, short, meticulously shaped, or disastrously unkempt, every beard lover can find a show that celebrates their favorite type of beard. So, if you (sometimes) choose a show to watch based on beards and only beards, you are not alone! There is at least one more of you out there — that person is me — and I have come up with a handful of TV recommendations based solely on the type of beard best showcased in that series. You’re welcome for this much-needed service.

If you prefer: The Full Well-Kept Beard

You should watch: Pitch [on Hulu]

Come for the emotional story about Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury), the first female player in Major League Baseball, stay for Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s beard. Or come for the beard and stay for the beard — you have to live your life. Gosselaar plays veteran catcher Mike Lawson. He’s seen some things. He’s a sarcastic (but secretly heartfelt) mentor figure on the team. His knees hurt. Obviously, this man needs a big-ass beard. The beard is character building. The beard is also distracting to me as a viewer who sometimes has to rewind full scenes because she misses all of the dialogue while staring into the beautiful abyss that is that full-as-hell beard.

If you prefer: The Closely Shaved Well-Kept Beard

You should watch: Evil [on CBS All Access]

Photo: Courtesy of CBS

Listen, you should watch Evil regardless of what kind of beard you’re into because it’s one of the best broadcast TV shows to come along in a while, but if you happen to also be into the type of beard David Acosta (Mike Colter) is sporting, well, that’s just an added bonus. A lot has been very understandably written about Fleabag’s Hot Priest, but comet on, David Acosta is a priest-in-training out here investigating demons and miracles and getting trapped in a racist goblin hospital, all while wearing THAT beard. This is the truest blessing.

If you prefer: The Extreme Close Shave, Basically Stubble Beard

You should watch: Never Have I Ever [on Netflix]

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

You wouldn’t think that a show primarily about a girl in high school would have solid beard content, but you would be wrong. What is this, amateur hour? Where there are teens, there are handsome dads with adult facial hair! The handsome dad with facial hair on Never Have I Ever is our protagonist Devi’s (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) late father Mohan (Sendhil Ramamurthy) and honestly, it’s a good thing this man has such a great beard because every time he shows up in a flashback or fantasy sequence you’ll want to bawl your eyes out, but you can easily distract yourself with that beard. Sorry, U2’s “Beautiful Day,” you have no power over me now! Only the stubble has power!

If you prefer: The Perfect Mid-Length, Catch-Your-Tears Beard

You should watch: Queen Sugar [on Hulu]

Photo: Courtesy of OWN

Ah yes, the beard where form meets function. Ralph Angel Bordelon (Kofi Siriboe), the youngest of the Bordelon siblings, has a lot on his plate: He’s taking care of his son Blue (Ethan Hutchinson), starting over after time in prison and the death of his father, and trying to keep his family’s sugarcane farm afloat. Yet still, the man knows the importance of keeping his beard in top shape. Not only is it the perfect length to catch any tears that this typically stoic guy might let fall from his eyes, but it’s also perfect to catch the tears of anyone close to him. There’s a lot of family drama going down in Queen Sugar’s Louisiana, so you know it gets put to good use.

If you prefer: The Perfectly Sculpted Hot Dad Beard

You should watch: Defending Jacob [on Apple TV+]

Photo: Courtesy of Apple TV+

Apple TV+’s Defending Jacob has been promoted as a series about a family unraveling when a teenage boy is accused of murder, and while that may be technically true, it is in no way spiritually true. This series is about lawyer and hot dad Andy Barber’s (Chris Evans) perfect beard. It’s about his perfect beard when Andy’s son becomes the lead suspect in a murder that has rocked their small town. It’s about his perfect beard when he gets rid of evidence that could implicate his son. And, oh, it is most definitely about that perfect beard that is always meticulously trimmed even when shit truly hits the fan for the Barber family and Andy testifies in front of a grand jury. Defending Jacob may not offer straight answers about who is and who is not a murderer, but do you know who is 100 percent guilty? That fine-as-hell beard. Guilty of making me all hot and bothered.

If you prefer: The Unkempt Hot Dad Beard

You should watch: This Is Us [on Hulu]

Photo: NBC/Ron Batzdorff/NBC

So much has been said about Milo Ventimiglia’s changing facial hair as he plays Jack Pearson, the very romantic and very dead patriarch of NBC’s weepy twist-factory This Is Us, the ensemble drama that follows the ever-suffering Pearson family through multiple timelines. But an official ruling has been made and Jack’s best facial hair era is in the 1970s and early ’80s when he’s practicing his “bearded contractor trying to hold it together with too many kids” look. The Facial Hair Council (me) will hear arguments from the Late ’80s/Early ’90s Solo Mustache Contingent, but everyone agrees that the Late ’90s Goatee Delegation can see themselves out.

If you prefer: The Salt-and-Pepper Beard That Doesn’t Play by the Rules

You should watch: Luther [on Prime Video, Hulu, or HBO Max]

Photo: Courtesy of BBCAmerica

Luther is a show about a detective played by Idris Elba who solves murders and has demons and gets too involved with a psychopathic murderer and, most importantly, HAS THE PERFECT SALT-AND-PEPPER BEARD. If you didn’t just open a new tab so that you can start streaming this show right now, I cannot help you.

If you prefer: The Vertically Blessed Beard

You should watch: Vikings [on Prime Video and Hulu] and/or The Last Kingdom [on Netflix]

Photo: Left: Courtesy of BBC America, Right: Courtesy of the History Channel

Yes, these two shows are “different” because The Last Kingdom is about the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings is about, well, you know. But let’s be serious, both of these shows have lots of dirty, smelly dudes killing people for land and also, like, so many beards. These shows also both excel on the long-beard front. Look at our Viking warrior king Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel): Not only does his beard get longer as he gets older, but at one point he sculpts it so that the only long part of his full beard is around the chin area. Over on The Last Kingdom, season two introduces us to Erik (Christian Hillborg), a Dane who ties his long-ass beard in a ponytail-type configuration. Both of these shows might be about stories from long, long ago, but dang if their beards aren’t fashion-forward.

If you prefer: The Bushy Gray Beard Full of Secrets

You should watch: Homeland [on Hulu]

Photo: Courtesy of Showtime

Bless CIA vet, National Security Adviser, seeker-of-the-truth, Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin). And also his beard. Bless that beard! Over eight seasons of making clandestine international deals, trying to figure out who is a double agent, and watching Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) ugly cry, that beard, like Saul himself, has been a steadfast companion. The things that big ol’ beard has seen! The truths it has heard! The secrets it keeps! Gretchen Weiner had her hair and Saul Berenson has his beard and the world spins madly on, you know?

If you prefer: The Things-Have-Unraveled Untrimmed, Scraggly Beard

You should watch: Lost [on Hulu]

Photo: Mario Perez/Walt Disney Television via Getty

Wow, this beard is truly disgusting, but the heart wants what the heart wants, and if your heart wants scraggly beards that scream I’M SPIRALING, please, by all means, watch Lost. Fair warning, this sci-fi-ish series about plane crash survivors on a mysterious island where things get weird doesn’t have the best beard content. Sayid Jarrah (Naveen Andrews) manages to keep it right and tight on that island, but it’s a pass on all other facial hair. The most impressive beard on this show (Tom’s beard is a fake so it doesn’t count, Losties) belongs to Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) when he [SPOILER] leaves the island (!!) and then becomes a human disaster until he can figure out a way to return. Sad men are always expressing their pain through poor facial hair choices, amirite?

If you prefer: One Man, Many Beards

You should watch: The Walking Dead [on Netflix]

Photo: Courtesy of AMC

Obviously Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) wins when it comes to mustaches because his is a work of art, but for straight-up beards, it’s Beard King Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) all the way. Over the course of nine seasons Rick Grimes not only stabbed many zombies through the head and yelled “Carl!” a lot, but he proved that one man can really rock a multitude of beard types. He doesn’t care if he gets zombie guts in his face sweater, he is providing a service for The People. He goes from scruffy stubble to a full-but-close-shaven look to whatever the hell grew out of his face around season five, back to something manageable, and then he goes out with the best yet: a long but perfectly rounded grey beard. One can only imagine what this follicle overachiever will bring to his Walking Dead movies should they come to pass, but we’ll all be waiting with bated breath.

If you prefer: Beards on Beards on Beards

You should watch: Game of Thrones [on HBO Max]

Photo: HBO

Sure, Game of Thrones will be remembered for its storytelling on an epic scale, for a deep bench of memorable characters, and for that time the Night King raised all those people from the dead, but perhaps it should also be remembered for being a treasure trove of beard content. True story: I assumed I’d just be writing about Tormund Giantsbane’s epic ginger beard because it ignites my soul, but how could I talk about a beard on Game of Thrones without mentioning Jamie Lannister’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) character evolution as told through facial hair? Or Tyrion Lannister’s (Peter Dinklage) legit snack of a full beard in later seasons? Are you into a chin-strap situation? Please direct your attention to Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) before he gets his head squashed. Hell, if you like weird patchy beards — own your truth — go follow Jon Snow (Kit Harington) north of The Wall. It’s a rare gift that a show has a beard for everyone, but Game of Thrones does it. It also has dragons, which is very cool.

Which TV Beard Is Right for You?