With shows like Hulu’s “PEN15” and Netflix’s “Big Mouth,” the awkward middle school dramedy is becoming one of the most emergent genres in TV today. “Chad” is an addition to this growing list of delightfully raunchy shows, borrowing much of the same quick pace and crass humor. “Chad” centers on the titular, terribly awkward 14-year-old late bloomer as he navigates his Iranian-American identity, middle-school cliques and getting girls to like him. Though Chad is an adolescent boy, he is played by female comedian Nasim Pedrad (“Scream Queens”). It’s a strange choice at first, but Pedrad’s over-the-top style fits the show’s whimsical nature.
“Chad” shares many similarities with other shows in its subgenre but takes them to a more extreme level. Many other shows rely on quick pacing, but “Chad” is practically rapid-fire. In one scene, Chad is talking to the cool kids; in the next, he’s talking about having sex. Then he’s talking to a girl who wants to have sex with him, but he gets scared — all within hardly two minutes of screen time.
While a fast-paced story is good for this type of show, it becomes extremely disorienting for viewers and doesn’t let us get to know any of the other characters besides Chad, such as his two sidekicks Peter (Jake Ryan, “Moonrise Kingdom”) and Su Chin (Alexa Loo, “Gabby Duran & the Unsittables”). Both characters appear in random scenes throughout the show, hanging out at Chad’s house or talking to him at school. But the audience hardly gets any insight into who these people are or how Chad truly relates to them. In one scene, Chad meets up with his friends to talk about the girl he’s talking to, and fifteen seconds later he’s taking an edible and throwing up all over a golf cart.
And that’s exactly the problem with “Chad.” Because the show is so fast-paced and laser-focused on one annoying, morally questionable character, the antics of the show seem outlandish at best and problematic at worst. One of the key differences between this show and, say, “PEN15” or “Big Mouth,” is the lack of a true comedy duo. In “PEN15,” there’s Maya (Maya Erskine, “Wine Country”) and Anna (Anna Konkle, “Rosewood”). In Big Mouth, there’s Nick (Nick Kroll, “Sausage Party”) and Andrew (John Mulaney, “Mulaney”). The duos are on the same page when it comes to their crazy schemes, so no matter how embarrassing or terrible they might be, at least they have each other.
Without the real development of a crew, none of Chad’s antics have any real support from any of his peers. Instead of being comedic and lighthearted, they just seem like sad cries for attention — not exactly a great emotion to feel in a dramatic comedy.
For shows of a similar vein, a high-octane pace leads to some great humor and engagement, but in “Chad,” it leaves the audience desperately yearning for genuine, well-developed friends to support Chad in all his crazy endeavors. In order for “Chad” to truly join the ranks of its much more emotionally impactful counterparts, it needs to slow down and take the time to develop the important people in the main character’s life.
Daily Arts Writer Josh Thomas can be reached at email@example.com.