What’s in the water in South Korea?
There must be something provoking the creative muses in South Korea. Alongside the renowned works of Bong Joon Ho, they’ve birthed increasingly wacky worldwide sensations like Gangnam Style, The Masked Singer, and more recently, Bread Barbershop. Obviously, bread has no place in a barbershop, yet the show gamely rolls with its loose concept and mostly makes it work, and viewers eat it up. In the past year, it amassed almost a million followers on Tik-Tok, 95 million views on YouTube, and even cracked into the top 10 on Netflix, where the first two seasons are now streaming.
Bread Barbershop is disturbingly weird, even for children’s programming. Bread Pitt is a master baker who lives to snazz up the uglies of the baked goods world so they can land a prime spot in the pastry case, where presumably, a human will eagerly buy and devour these sentient creations. Or something. The imminent death angle is never explored.
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Like all the most memorable entertainment geared at kids, Bread Barbershop is a sack of hot nightmares blended with a fevered daydream. It feels like drugs, but also somehow harkens to those mythical Simpler Times. A toddler could happily pass the day watching Bread whip up some fancy ‘do for a sad cupcake while his stoned babysitter would be equally amused. It takes the mindless joy of a show like Teletubbies or Bananas in Pajamas and funnels it into a delectable CGI landscape.
During the intro, a rollickingly generic guitar riff blasts while Bread makes various guttural noises, sticks out his tongue, and rubs his head while somehow flapping his crusts around. Wilk, who is a carton of milk, whisks a bowl of dairy he might have poured out of himself, and these antics drag on for at least a minute. A thinly plotted and presumably deeply strange episode unfolds, before some jaunty pop closing music wraps things up with a lineup of dancing characters from the show, while an upbeat singer happily chants “Shooo shoo shoopa doopa, everything is all right!” This also rolls on for at least 2 minutes, meaning approximately 30% of each episode contains nothing but credits, perhaps deliberately to give the audience plenty of time to just dance it out.
The rules of the Bread Barbershop world offer absolutely zero consistency. Humans bake and remove foodstuffs from their ovens; in turn, those food items morph into lovable characters living their best life in their pastry town that exists within and around the human world. All these products humans want to eat are fully self-aware. Some wear clothes, while others use frosting as clothes, which means that before Bread decorates them, they’re strutting around naked. These pastries have homes, self-esteem issues, and a disturbing array of financial troubles. The show often awkwardly translates the storefronts of the town, resulting in shops like Jewellery (spelled exactly like that) and Bakery Cafe, which indicates these pastries also love to eat pastries.
In a way, it’s like Cats, but for kids. The display case is the ultimate Heaviside Layer, and while Jennyanydots may never physically appear onscreen, her goofy spirit definitely abounds. The world’s unapologetically built on a fanciful, nonsensical idea, and trying to force it to make sense is senseless. It’s best to release any notions of order, and instead, simply sit back, watch the pretty colors, and search for bizarre signs in the background. Basically, every hipster party should project this show non-stop from the rest of eternity.
Bread Barbershop is oddly fun, although it isn’t exactly funny. It also lacks important messages, lessons, or special purpose, which is actually sort of refreshing. A slice of bread simply wants to earn a living spraying some whipped cream on a pastry while his sidekick Wilk cleans up the mess, and that is enough. Maybe some incidental kindness and incredibly low-level problem solving happens, but that’s never the point. Bread Barbershop gives viewers permission to check their brains at the door for ten minutes at a time.