The Chair (2021)
- August 22, 2021
Finally, a drama where English majors are cool. Well, if not cool, at least relevant. Brough to us by the utterly charming and creative Amanda Peet, The Chair is funny and thoughtful and so well written that it seems like a gift from the gods. Its funny and relatable and covers modern social issues directly without being heavy handed or self-righteous. This limited series delivers everything you could want in a fresh and delightful way.
Peet, along with her writing partner, Annie Julie Wyman, created an interesting cast of characters to populate the English department at the fictional Ivy League institute, Pembroke. They did more than just create a winning cast of characters, they consistently brought interest and realism to the series as they explored topics of freedom of speech, racism, sexism and ageism episode by episode.
The series opens with Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim, portrayed to perfection by Sandra Oh, beginning her first day as Chair of the department. The Peet/Wyman duo provided Oh with a strong character who is independent, driven and still slightly neurotic in her doubts and insecurities. They drew an outline and left Oh to fill in the details in the way only she could. She is funny and authentic and earnest throughout the series without being campy or sappy. Her genius as a comic and dramatic are given room to breathe in The Chair.
Kim is more than just a glass-ceiling smashing academic, she is also a daughter and a mother, a lover of language and a conflicted friend. She is one of the most relatable characters in a series in a long time. And she is not alone. The whole cast is filled with folks with truthful back-stories laid out in honesty and filled with human fragility and humour.
Early on, Dr. Kim steps into a department meeting where we are introduced to the most eclectic and delightful cast of academics. Bob Balaban, Holland Taylor and David Morse are reoccurring characters that give Oh consistent solid performance to play off of. Their understated yet entirely captivating offerings onscreen give depth and interest to the whole series.
Although The Chair offers just six episodes, it is more well-rounded, with characters that are more fully developed, than some series that are five times it’s length. Each episode builds a continuity of story that we can actually care about. The topics make us think, but not too hard and the humour is utterly delightful without being forced.
The Chair is more than binge-worthy, it is the show we didn’t know we were waiting for. It is the perfect rainy day watch that will make you wish for more. Let’s hope Netflix gets the hint and picks this gem up for another season or four. But for now, check out season one now on Netflix.
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