The Chair, good but not great

Sandra Oh in The Chair

The Chair has a terrific cast with Sandra Oh and Jay Duplass leading a large group of excellent actors. This Netflix dramedy was full of good performances that couldn’t quite pull the 6 episode series over the line into greatness. It was good. It was enjoyable. But not great.

The Chair is set at a fictional university where Ji-Yoon Kim (Sandra Oh) has been appointed chair of a failing English department. She thinks she’s there to make substantive changes that would revive the department. She wants to give tenure and an important lecture position to Yaz McKay (Nana Mensah), a woman of color. She wants to wake up some of the older faculty who have been there forever and grown tired in their roles. This includes Joan Hambling (Holland Taylor) and Elliot Rentz (Bob Balaban).

Holland Taylor, Nana Mensah, and Sandra Oh in The Chair

Her plans are derailed, however. The administrator above her in rank, Dean Larson (David Morse), wants her to get the older faculty to retire. He wants her to take the lecture post away from Yaz and give it to David Duchovny, who plays himself.

Ji-Yoon is half in love with the recently widowed and completely undone Bill Dobson (Jay Duplass). Bill gets himself in trouble by throwing a Nazi salute into a lecture. A video of the salute goes viral and soon the administration wants Ji-Yoon to fire Bill, too. Bill is banned from campus. He spends his time babysitting Ji-Yoon’s problematic adopted daughter, Ju-Hee (Everly Carganilla).

The many issues and challenges facing Ji-Yoon come down to whether she’s going to defend herself, Bill, and her long-time friends on the faculty or hang on to her chair position and do the bidding of the Dean.

Amanda Peet and Annie Wyman created The Chair. They got plenty of conflict into the script. Themes about white supremacy, academic freedom, ageism, racism, and sexism were inherent in the situations. But it wasn’t strong enough to bring that “Wow” factor a really good series can bring. It’s more of a “Meh.” It’s worth seeing for the strong cast, even so.

Daniel Gray Longino directed every episode.

Have a look at the trailer.

Have you already watched this one? What did you think about it?

Author: Virginia DeBolt

After many years as an educator and writer, Virginia retired from working life. She's always loved a good movie or TV show and wants to use her free time to talk about them with you now. #EldersRock! Look for Old Ain't Dead on Twitter.

2 thoughts on “The Chair, good but not great”

  1. Watched 2 episodes last night and agree the acting is strong but story is too slow and lacks the wow factor. I was disappointed. Wish they would have given Holland Taylor more to do. I loved her in the Title IX office. That was some witty dialogue.

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