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Growing Up Isn't Just Uncomfortable on Chad — It's Nearly Impossible

Nasim Pedrad's teen comedy matures in its second season, which almost didn't make it to air.
  • Thomas Barbusca and Nasim Pedrad in Chad (Photo: Roku)
    Thomas Barbusca and Nasim Pedrad in Chad (Photo: Roku)

    It’s easy to forget, amid all the cuts and consolidation in the entertainment industry, that Nasim Pedrad’s Chad was one of the first victims of the Zaslav-ification of Warner Bros. Discovery. The TBS sitcom, which stars Pedrad as the self-centered title character, was set to return in April 2022 when it was struck down by the Zas just hours before the second season was scheduled to premiere.

    The awkward teen comedy hadn’t exactly captured the zeitgeist when it premiered in 2021; Pedrad’s decision to play a teen boy generated more headlines than any other element of the show, which originally got a pilot order from Fox. The decision to flat-out pull the completed season rather than dump it on streaming was still shocking, and it was hardly the last of its kind.

    But the story of Chad’s cancellation has a happier ending than most. Roku swooped in to pick up the show just six months after TBS pulled the plug, and now Season 2 is finally streaming, just two years after it was originally scheduled for release. Time has been good to Chad, which is now much more in line with what Pedrad originally envisioned: cringe comedy with heart, whose teen protagonist still rails against change, but at least shows that he’s capable of it (in infinitesimally small doses).

    Season 1, which is also streaming on Roku, was a bumpier ride. Chad (Pedrad) was such an intensely unlikable character — obnoxious, rude, and only interested in others to see how he could use them — that he made Dawson Leery look self-aware and Rue Bennett seem caring by comparison. Though five years had passed since it was first announced that Pedrad would play the role of the teenage boy, people still wondered just why she had done it. Reviews were mixed, but leaned toward favorable. It may have been impossible to like Chad the character, but Chad the show had a lot going for it in Pedrad’s performance — all boyish bravado and ungainliness — which was like no other on TV. Not even Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle’s wonderful work in Pen15 reached the same levels of discomfort.

    In Season 2, Chad is still mostly the walking, talking id of a teen boy dressed in oversized rugby shirts, but he’s no longer steamrolling over everyone else. His newfound popularity, the result of his classmates thinking a stunt gone wrong was a hate crime, is short-lived. Chad just as quickly reconciles with his best friend Peter (Eighth Grade’s Jake Ryan), which is a good thing because their dynamic is one of the most appealing parts of the show. Peter may be young, but he challenges Chad more than anyone else in his life — that is, until transfer student Mona (Sarah Burns) and Chad’s maman bozorg Zahra (the great Shohreh Aghdashloo) show up.

    Life comes at Chad fast in Season 2. The boy no one thought would ever grow up develops a crush, shows empathy and respect for others, confronts his fear of fire (which is actually perfectly reasonable), and does the unthinkable: stands up to the popular kids. His journey is far from smooth, and it’s also far from over — Chad’s still self-involved and brash, and he may be even worse off by the end of Season 2. Pedrad and her team, including writers Max Searle and Lindsay Golder, wisely maintain the show’s edge: Just because Chad has the occasional good intention doesn’t mean he’ll act on it, or that he won’t make an even bigger mess.

    Chad’s growing self-awareness also leads to greater exploration of life with his put-upon family — mom Naz (Saba Homayoon), sister Niki (Ella Mika), uncle Hamid (Paul Chahidi, still utterly delightful) — and the Persian culture he’s tried to deny because he was worried it would “other” him. But Chad fundamentally misunderstands what’s been keeping him apart from everyone else; it’s actually his self-absorption. Pedrad gives him two great guides in Mona and Zahra, who help Chad embrace his Persian background, but are also quick to put him in his place. Aghdashloo delivers one of the best lines of the season in response to one of his tantrums: "I survived three wars and a revolution, and you don't even seem to be surviving high school."

    Sophomore seasons are always fraught prospects, even when the only thing a show is up against is a solid first season. Chad Season 2, which has already been saved once, arrives as the industry contracts once again. But Pedrad and co. effectively have a do-over on their hands, and they make the most of it — Chad is discomfiting and winsome, silly and moving. And it won’t make you cringe to admit it.

    Chad Seasons 1 and 2 are now streaming on Roku. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Danette Chavez is the Editor-in-Chief of Primetimer and its biggest fan of puns.

    TOPICS: Chad, TBS, David Zaslav, Nasim Pedrad, Cringe Comedy, Roku, Warner Bros. Discovery