TV

Chad Radwell & The Case Of Superior Side Characters

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.

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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.

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TV

‘It’s Always Sunny’ On Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

I just finished Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and though that too much longer than it should have, I’m definitely not alone in feeling that this season was a huge improvement from last year- which is saying a lot, considering it’s what gave us Peeno Noir and the world’s catchiest theme song. I didn’t think UKS could get much better, but I should know never to underestimate Tina Fey (and so should Taylor Swift).

There was something really fresh and 30 Rock-ish about the writing this season, especially in Kimmy’s little “what the huh?” and weird gags like Titus putting a mannequin arm up his sleeve so he could hold Mikey’s hand while eating a sandwich. But another thing I found myself realizing as I watched this season was how Kimmy and her friends reminded me of another wacky group living in semi-squalor who are kind of just not good people: the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia gang. Obviously, the UKS group is not as villainous- they’ve never gotten addicted to crack just to get welfare or tried to pick up girls at an abortion rally. But both shows have put humorous twists on serious topics- racism, sexism, gentrification. Even observing character to character, Kimmy is basically a non-violent Charlie Kelly, right? She’s not quite a sociopath but couldn’t the self-absorbed Jacqueline easily go toe to toe with Dennis Reynolds? And are you not surprised Frank didn’t think of making tenants live in a tug-boat basement before Lillian did?

Let’s look at the facts. This season, Jacqueline gives her son an ADHD drug so they don’t have to spend time together, and then trashes a store with him to give him back his joy. Later, she ruins someone’s Lupus Awareness Awareness benefit by having all the married men meet their mistresses at her benefit, just so she can reclaim her top-dog status. Kimmy and Dong have sex in the back of a cop car, and he gets deported. Titus goes to the funeral of a colleague, where they’re literally dumping the body into the East River. Kimmy watches fellow mole-woman Gretchen do coke with a “junkyard Elmo.” Tina Fey shows up as an alcoholic therapist who drinks on the job. These people are kind of screwed up, and yet it’s funny as hell to watch.

Life’s similar at Paddy’s Pub, where the Philadelphia characters are somehow not in jail after all this time. They’re bad people, and it’s really entertaining because after 12 years they haven’t changed at all. I’m personally not bothered by their craziness (it’s a commentary on society, guyssss) but for some viewers they’re just too mean. You’re not rooting for them, because you hope their schemes don’t work- you don’t want them to get away with tricking the Health Inspector, because it’s disgusting, but you can’t look away either. Life is good for Charlie, Mac, Dennis and Dee, because they’re skating by and fine with it, but it isn’t for everyone else. You’re just left hoping you never run into anyone like them on the street.

On Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, life is always sunny, for everyone. Jacqueline trashes a store, but it’s to bond with her son. The benefit she ruins is ultimately so she can raise money for her Native American tribe. That funeral Titus goes to- Ice T and the crew of Law and Order: SVU are there to pay their respects, and Ice T plays the saxophone. Gretchen becomes the leader of her own cult, which ends up being a positive, and Leah Remini joins. Tina Fey’s Dr. Andrea actually does end up helping Kimmy. Even Dong’s deportation ends up being just a minor setback. I’m sure he’ll return somehow, because that’s how life works on Kimmy. Nothing that terrible ever really happens, and it works for the audience, too. We’re rooting for them the whole time.

Tina Fey and Robert Carlock have created a world where bad things happen, and bad things are done, but through Kimmy’s bright-eyed view on the world it all comes across as harmless and in good fun. It’s not one of the darkest shows on TV (though looming ahead for next season is Kimmy’s divorce from the imprisoned Reverend), and of course it draws similarities to other shows, but it gets away with achieving something positive. Talking about serious subjects, while keeping it light, and keeping you laughing is no easy task, but Kimmy pulls it off. It’s the worst, laziest pun I could come up with, but that really is unbreakable.

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TV

Allison Argent is Important

ImageYou should be watching MTV’s Teen Wolf. Okay, a main character just died tragically, and people everywhere are probably going to stop. But still you should watch, because in the penultimate episode of the most psychologically draining season of any teen drama I’ve ever watched, Allison Argent was stabbed, and died in the arms of titular teen wolf Scott McCall. And though TV deaths always get me, this one was one of the worst. You’d have to understand a lot of the character’s backstories to get how depressing it actually was- hence why you should be watching- but part of the reason it got to most viewers including myself was because Allison Argent is really important. And not just in terms of Teen Wolf, but in terms of TV dramas across the board.

Most of the teenage dramas I’ve watched are directed at girls, but make the main male characters out to be the heroes. It’s no secret that the “chick-flick” genre is increasingly sexist, and this often translates over to TV; in season 2 of One Tree Hill, the audience is made to hate Haley when she leaves Nathan to pursue her music career, despite the fact that Nathan himself was arguably the biggest jerk on that show. You remember LC and Kristin’s feuding more than anything else that took place on The Hills. I barely watch The Vampire Diaries but I’m pretty sure Elena is supposed to a vampire and all we get is her making out with Damon and Stefan. And yeah, Ryan is my favorite character on The OC, but half the time it seems like he exists ONLY to save Marissa. It’s possible the “male lead” in teenage dramas has to do with gathering more male viewers, but regardless of the reason, these shows always seems to make the girls forgettable.

Teen Wolf is not absent of this, considering many of the deaths on the show have been female and most of the main characters are in fact male. But as a female character, Allison Argent was not forgettable. In the first season, Allison, played by the wonderful Crystal Reed, is introduced as the simple love interest to the werewolf, and its all very sweet until we find out that she is from a family of werewolf hunters and she finds out she’s dating one of them. ImageWith a few minor setbacks Allison manages to handle all this well, developing her own code and standing by her family while protecting her friends. Over the course of her three seasons, her mother and aunt are killed, she is pursued by a couple of creepy male characters, her best friend Lydia seemingly goes crazy, her father is almost sacrificed- and we find out her biggest fear is being seen by others as weak, as if she needs protection. As a seventeen-year-old and one of the two human teenagers on the show, Allison became one of the most relatable and impressive characters for viewers and future showrunners alike. She may have been brought in as just a love interest for Scott during season 1, but it’s her decision to break up with him season 2, and remains his friend throughout season 3 (and let’s be honest, without Allison’s bow and arrow skills, these werewolves would be nowhere). And in a show with themes of “the power of human love” that are reminiscent of Harry Potter, yes Allison died in our main male character’s arms, but it wasn’t about Scott- Allison died protecting Isaac, getting Stiles back, and saving Lydia. In her final episode she got to say goodbye to her father AND finally figured out how to defeat the Oni demons (like I said, you should probably just watch the show). Maybe some viewers were disappointed in her demise, and maybe it was only for three seasons, but Allison showed us that there can be, and should be, strong characters that young female viewers to look up to. We’ll miss you, Allison.

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