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Chris ‘Whiskers’ Warner (Photo: Shortland Street)
Chris ‘Whiskers’ Warner (Photo: Shortland Street)

Pop CultureApril 10, 2024

Important: Chris Warner has a beard now

Chris ‘Whiskers’ Warner (Photo: Shortland Street)
Chris ‘Whiskers’ Warner (Photo: Shortland Street)

He’s endured five divorces, a painkiller addiction, cancer, being framed for murder, being kidnapped, being shot and having a heart attack. But through all those terrible moments, he never once let his grooming slip. Until now.

Shortland Street fans are about to see Dr Chris Warner as we’ve never seen him before: hopeless, heartbroken, but above all, hairy. For the past 32 glorious years, Dr Love’s smooth reputation – both of face and spirit – has seen him conquer corporate mountains and woo women with little more than the irresistible power of a clean shave and a rousing chorus of “Anchor Me”. 

But no more. With Chris’ son Harry recently exposed as a fake doctor and a murderer – and with Chris helping Harry secretly flee the country – we last saw Chris leaving Shortland Street hospital in a cloud of shame. He was fired from the job he loved as a public punishment for the sins of his son, and quietly disappeared from Ferndale, presumably never to be seen again.

Until two weeks later, that is. Tonight, Chris (played by Michael Galvin) makes a much-heralded return to Shortland Street, but as a shell of his former self. You may not even recognise him in the solitary image Shortland Street has teased us with. He’s only been away for two weeks, but in soap years, that’s a lifetime. 

In facial hair years, it’s even longer.  

What is time, anyway (Photo: Shortland Street Official Instagram)

If eyes are the window to the soul, then hair must be the front door to the heart, and it seems we finally found Chris Warner’s breaking point. Never before has the super surgeon looked this disheveled and unkempt, even though he’s endured thousands of catastrophic events over the years: five divorces, a painkiller addiction, framed for murder, diagnosed with cancer, kidnapped, shot and had a heart attack. But through all those terrible moments, he never once said goodbye to his grooming routine. Even when he fell off a flying fox, Dr Love kept it together. 

Until now. Please tell me that is not your facial hair, Chris Warner. 

“Well, Chris has had some very bad things happen to him,” Galvin and his beard forewarned The Spinoff last year. “But this time it’s really bad, and he gives up on his personal appearance and on caring about the hospital.” Galvin couldn’t be more excited to play this never-seen-before side to Chris, who he says returns to Ferndale with “nothing but disdain for everyone”. 

It’s clear that Chris and his grubby jacket have plummeted into a furry chasm of self-pity and regret. His children hate him, his career is ruined, he’s run out of women to marry and, judging by this photo, has only his pyjama pants for company. The former CEO is wearing a T-shirt, for crying out loud. All that existential anguish is seeping through his face, one prickly bristle at a time. 

In happier times (Photo: TVNZ)

And yet, that beard makes perfect sense. Whiskers Warner has done what thousands of men before him have also done, which is to grow a crisis beard. I searched a stock photo library for “upset man” and discovered that approximately 95.78% of the photos featured an abundance of facial hair. If that doesn’t make you think, then consider every famous man you know. Does he have a) feelings and b) a beard? Of course he does. Prince Harry refused to shave his beard off for the Queen, and ended up on Oprah talking about his chickens. As for Santa Claus? Maybe not as jolly as you think. 

Chris Warner is not alone. His new beard is a comfort blanket of the soul, a radical symbol of metamorphosis – or perhaps, as one fan suggested, Chris is simply playing Jean Valjean in a local amateur production of Les Miserables. Who knows the truth? All I know is that the nights are getting cold, and those wafer-thin jarmies won’t keep Dr Love warm for long. 

Shortland Street screens Monday-Friday at 7pm on TVNZ2 and streams on TVNZ+.

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