Chad season 1, episode 1 recap – this show is quite the test of patience who's that guy?

April 7, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
Weekly TV
2

Summary

I’m sure there’s some earnestness coming to Chad, but getting there is going to be a test of patience.

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2

Summary

I’m sure there’s some earnestness coming to Chad, but getting there is going to be a test of patience.

This recap of Chad season 1, episode 1, “Pilot”, contains spoilers.


There’s a particularly annoying myth about storytelling of all kinds which holds that any book, film, television show, video game, or whatever must have a relatable protagonist; someone the audience can empathize with and see themselves in. I’ve always thought this was ridiculous, but TBS has provided a phenomenal counter-argument in Nasim Pedrad’s Chad, a sitcom with a protagonist so deeply unlikeable and irritating that I could barely tolerate the pilot for long enough to enjoy all the miserable things that happen to him.

Chad hates everyone and everything, even – perhaps especially – the people that care about him the most, and when he’s not being needlessly aggressive and vicious, he’s being pathetically self-aggrandizing and, well, just a flat-out needy liar. Spending time with Chad is a nightmare, and it isn’t made any more tolerable by the show’s essential gimmick, which is that Chad, ostensibly a teenage boy, is being played by Pedrad, a woman in her late 30s. This, you’ll recall, is the exact same gimmick as Hulu’s Pen15, and works on the same terms, since both Chad’s teenage friends and adult family all play completely straight, neither noticing nor commenting on the obvious age difference or gender-bend.

What this adds to the show beyond some apparently lived experiences regarding Chad’s Persian heritage, which we’ll get to momentarily, is anyone’s guess. Pen15 aired recently enough that it feels like the quintessential example of this kind of thing, and Chad would struggle not to feel like a knock-off even if it was any good, which it isn’t. But Chad himself is just written in such a determinedly off-putting way that it manages to earthquake the surrounding fiction, too. He’s so dismissive of and often abusive to his best friend (Jake Ryan), mother (Saba Homayoon), younger sister (Ella Mika), and uncle (Paul Chahidi) that it strains credibility they’d even tolerate being around him, let alone actively care for him. And yet here we are.

Chad season 1, episode 1 really plays up the essential awkwardness of being a teenager who doesn’t fit in, but it manifests in such painfully dull ways that it’s impossible to even get behind it on that level. An earnest desire to fit in, to have had sex, to be part of the cool crowd, is relatable, but the ridiculous frankness with which Chad manipulates and abandons people, and the contrived obviousness of all his efforts to be accepted, just create too much artificiality around the theme. The only interesting idea here is how Chad’s desire to fit in manifests as active resentment against his Persian heritage – Chad isn’t even his real name, just a more culturally fitting nom de guerre that he has adopted. Some of this stuff rings quite true, and I imagine these are the bits plucked from Pedrad’s background; Chad’s immediate fascination with his mum’s new cool, Black, and absurdly handsome Muslim boyfriend Ikrimah (Phillip Mullings Jr.) seems like particularly fertile territory for exploring this idea, but at this stage, it’s difficult to trust the show to explore anything other than how to write the most grating character in the universe.

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