There’s a running joke in the new Netflix movie Bad Trip about the plausibility of the 2004 film White Chicks, in which Marlon and Shawn Wayans—African-American men—play, well, you saw the title. There’s a similar question facing the new TBS comedy Chad: Can a 39-year-old woman convincingly play a 14-year-old boy?
The answer is an unqualified yes. As someone who spent time as a 14-year-old boy, I can say that Nasim Pedrad absolutely nails Chad’s insolent temperament, gangly movements, and most crucially, pathological hunger for status and acceptance. Chad is a cringe comedy with a setting and premise that allows it to explore awkwardness in all its bitter flavors.
When we first meet Chad, he’s getting his braces off, and appears a little too eager to put that orthodontic era behind him. We soon find out that, like Pedrad, he comes from a Persian family, an insecurity that pushes him to test drive a new persona as he enters high school. However, Chad’s deceitful boasts soon catch up to him, as his lie about losing his virginity puts him on the radar of a more sexually experienced girl.
If that plot description has you slightly shifting in your seat, you will be completely cringing when you see what happens next. Tonally, Chad takes a lot of its cues from the “oh-no-he-didn’t” Michael Scott episodes of The Office (Chad’s character is actually an interesting mix of Michael and, in his more hormonal moments, Dwight). But there’s more than a dash of Napoleon Dynamite in the show as well, particularly in Chad’s relationship with his friends Peter (Jake Ryan) and Denise (Alexa Loo). As the show’s creator, writer, showrunner, and title character, Pedrad gets the credit for blending Chad’s disparate ingredients into a palatable dish.
With a marketing blitz during TBS’ coverage of March Madness, Chad seemed to prematurely earn backlash from some of those predisposed to expressing their anger on the internet. These people should know Chad is much better than those promos suggested. Pedrad has crafted a quirky show that captures the awkwardness and insecurity of adolescence in a way that’s both hilarious and humane. If nothing else, it feels a whole lot more believable than White Chicks.
New episodes of Chad air Tuesday nights at 10:30pm ET on TBS. Click here to watch episodes on demand.