Creators: Amanda Peet and Annie Wyman
The Chair is like manna from heaven for those of us who waited impatiently for Sandra Oh to be able to show her comic as well as dramatic chops on the increasingly depressing Killing Eve. Sandra Oh returns to laptop screens everywhere with Netflix’s The Chair, following Season 3 of Killing Eve. The amiable college series, created by Amanda Peet and Annie Julia Wyman, takes place in an American liberal arts university’s English department.
The Chair: Cast and Plot
The Netflix dramedy, created by Amanda Peet and Annie Wyman, depicts a department in crisis due to declining enrollments and a shrinking budget — and that’s before one of their professors, a formerly beloved trainwreck named Bill Dobson (Jay Duplass), sparks national outrage with a viral video of him performing a Hitler salute in class.
The idea is stolen from a slew of headlines concerning cancel culture on college campuses, and all of the characters appear ripe for ridicule at first glance. While The Chair throws a few good barbs at academics, the six-episode season is more concerned with adding nuance to the hand-wringing over academia than skewering it.
The Chair: Review
Amanda Peet and Annie Wyman, the show’s creators, go deep into numerous issues in six episodes of less than half an hour. Sandra Oh is fantastic as Ji-Yoon, a character competing to keep the department afloat at her frayed and comic best. While she fights against being repeatedly belittled, she has been torn apart in various directions as her colleague’s complaints mount. Her department is appropriately called a “ticking time bomb” by her. The tense atmosphere is apparent, and you can’t help but stare in horror.
Joan Hambling (Holland Taylor, in a notable performance) is another character whose problems range from having her office relegated to the basement to receiving unfavorable feedback from her pupils about her out-of-date lectures. The character Bill, however, demands more from Ji-Yoon or the viewer. The series goes to great lengths to explain that the uproar isn’t the result of a few overly sensitive youngsters but rather a spark in bigger issues about inclusivity, sensitivity, and social justice. In The Chair, there are no easy villains or solutions; instead, the series concludes by saying that true change requires more than managing a single person or event.
Although The Chair is set in an American university, some topics explored in the film are universal to institutions worldwide, as significant decisions are frequently made by people who have never set foot in a classroom or sought to engage with students. Several women of color in academia have spoken and written about how the program has hit home and connected with them since its premiere. The near-perfect ensemble cast and sophisticated writing bring all of this to life onscreen. The Chair is a must-see for all of these reasons and more.