Awards Daily goes back to high school for SNL alum Nasim Pedrad’s new TBS show, Chad.
I would argue that the most challenging role any actor can play is that of a teenager. The emotions alone would be a challenge even for Meryl Streep (it may be the one part she’s never played!). In just one day, a teenager can go through fear, humiliation, pain, and elation—all before fifth period.
One thing Hollywood often bypasses when portraying teenagers is this emotional depth. In beloved films and TV shows from Superbad to Freaks and Geeks, the teenagers mostly stick to smaller ranges of reactions, but after seeing TBS’s Chad, I’ve realized that this titular character, despite being played by a 39-year-old woman, might be the closest emotional portrayal to what it’s actually like being a teenager.
NP is MVP
Created by Saturday Night Live alum Nasim Pedrad (who also stars in the show), Chad follows a 14-year-old Persian boy who’s desperate to belong, which results in often tamping down his cultural identity and trying to be like everyone else. He’s starting high school and hoping for a fresh start to make new friends, which means getting the new Lebrons (not Lebron Jameses — just Lebrons), joining clubs (and subsequently turning the members against him), and developing a mysterious past for himself (he tells everyone he had sex over the summer).
Pedrad was always an underrated MVP on SNL, but here she really shows how talented she is as an actress. If you’ve seen the previews for this show, you might actually think you’re watching a real teenage actor before you realize it’s Pedrad. Her physicality is completely different; she comes off as a Gen Z-er through her posture and mannerisms. And as mentioned before, in some scenes, she goes from demonstrating adolescent devastation to delivering a hilarious wisecrack at the drop of a dime.
Other similarly themed shows utilize narration, like Fresh Off the Boat and The Goldbergs, but Chad forgoes this technique and instead tells us so much about the inner-workings of this character without uttering a narrative word. His father has taken off and much of Chad’s struggles with fitting in with male peers has to do with this situation at home. His mother (Saba Homayoon) recognizes this issue, and in one episode, does something especially touching to fill this void. His Uncle Hamid (Paul Chahidi) is incredibly proud of his nephew, which also results in an episode that might have you reaching for the tissues from laughing and crying.
Like Hulu’s critically acclaimed Pen15, the gimmick of an adult woman playing a teenager (in this case, a boy) is just one aspect of this show and not at all the driving force behind the comedy. Pedrad is telling a straightforward story about a quirky kid trying to fit in, often putting modern masculinity under a microscope, while also doing a service by depicting a positive and realistic portrayal of a culture that often gets represented poorly.
Outstanding Comedy Series
Outstanding Comedy Actress
Outstanding Contemporary Makeup
Chad airs on TBS.