Glen Powell’s Chad Radwell on Scream Queens is the best television character of the 2015-2016 season. There are definitely some competitors- Evan Peters’ Mr. March on American Horror Story made my mom laugh out loud every single time he was on screen, and literally anyone on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend could be in the running for a Top Ten Characters list. Then there’s Mr. Robot/Elliot Alderson, Quinn from UnREAL and Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl, though she’s based on source material, so maybe she doesn’t count? The thing about Chad Radwell that sets him apart from the above is that he’s barely a main character, and even came back this season only as a special guest star. And yet he remains to be one of the main reasons I tune in to Scream Queens every week.
Scream Queens is insane. You can kind of sum up the show by Colton Haynes’ guest role, where the objectively very attractive ex-Teen Wolf/Arrow star appeared completely covered in warts and then was murdered. Anything goes, including the way the (many) characters act. It’s a crazy horror comedy, but there are definitely some out-of-character moments that you sort of just allow because you’re hopeful of what they’ll ultimately lead to. I don’t think Lea Michele knew that Hester was the killer all along last season, but she ran with that big reveal to turn her character into the amazing and insane “Hannibal Hester” we get to see now. But on a show full of these wait, what? character moments, Chad Radwell is impressively reliable. He has one consistent goal- to sleep with Chanel, because she’s hot and rich, but then cheats on her constantly. He’s the worst prat of every frat bro in Vineyard Vines, except he’s also turned on by death and wildly stupid. He’s sexist and terrible, and so absolutely awful, all the time. But he also does things like talk about missing his best bro, “dead gay Boone,” and challenges John Stamos to a “homoerotic squash game” while they’re both in the shower, and suddenly he’s your favorite character. Every episode you’re hoping he turns up cuddling with a goat or wearing a sweat band and crop top (both have happened). Scream Queens has a packed plot that doesn’t need Chad, and would benefit from having one less character to worry about, but what would the show be without him challenging a murderer while dressed like a Backstreet Boy?
Of course, Chad is not the first probably-unnecessary side character to steal the show. There’s always that one completely unrealistic person that stands out. Michael Kelso doesn’t really bring much to the That 70’s Show table in terms of plot, but he’s iconic, mostly for being really weird and dumb. New Girl has smartly branched into more of an ensemble show, but Winston Bishop continues to sort of be written in the weirdo outsider vein; half the time the show’s C-plot is Winnie the Bish hanging with Ferguson the cat, but the genius of Liz Meriwether makes it work, and Winston is my family’s favorite character. black-ish‘s Charlie forgets he has a son too much to be a person you might actually hang out with, and Veep‘s Richard Splett once improvised a tuna melt and got a lobster curry roll, but they’re both fan favorites. Creed on The Office rarely spoke, but when he did it was gold, and Kelly Kapoor was a revolving wheel of one-liners. Jane The Virgin‘s Lina says absolutely anything that comes into her head. Crazy Ex Girlfriend‘s Darryl, who ended up being great and important, started out as the “wacky boss.” Off the top of my head I can think of a whole bunch of Full House episodes where the audience aww’d at Uncle Jesse, but Joey just got to play with puppets, and Kimmy Gibbler was… Kimmy Gibbler. The list goes on.
Every show needs a light spot, and sometimes these just end up being the best characters on the show. They pop in and out, make you laugh and leave the bulk of emotion to the rest of the group. They get the lines when maybe the rest of the episode is lacking in easy jokes. You know what to expect from them and they always deliver. Sure, it’s easy to make a character like Chad Radwell seem consistent when everything that comes out of his mouth is complete nonsense. But who’s complaining? It’s a trope as old as the “quirky best friend” in a romcom, but one that’s way more enjoyable. Maybe it’s just because television writers need to have a place to put all the weird thoughts they had sitting in traffic, and that place is the side character’s mouth. Maybe we just like suspending all reality and watching a show featuring someone who would never exist in real life. Or maybe we just choose our favorite character based on who’s the most quotable. Whatever the reason, let’s pour one out for the side characters of the world who have made television viewing that much better. Plus, we all have a little bit of weirdo Chad Radwell in us, don’t we? My bit is liking the phrase ‘dead gay Boone’ a lot.