FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE NOT SEEN THE CHAIR, THIS IS A NON-SPOILER REVIEW.
Netflix’s The Chair at first glance, does not sound like the most interesting show on the planet. Who really wants to binge watch and spend time with the aging faculty of a prestigious college? Though its premise might not garner much excitement, The Chair is as timely a show as they come. And although I feel like this first season has only scratched the surface of its potential and what it can accomplish. I think it is a firecracker debut, nonetheless.
WHAT IS THE CHAIR ALL ABOUT?
In The Chair, Sandra Oh plays Ji-Yoon Kim, the first woman of color at a prestigious university, to become a chair. With her new promotion, Ji-Yoon’s life slowly starts to unravel… As she tries to pick up the pieces of a broken English department. Meanwhile, the student body begins to retaliate against the faculty, to ensure that their voices and needs are heard.
HOW IS SANDRA OH IN THE LEAD ROLE?
DAVID MORSE and SANDRA OH in The Chair. Courtesy of Netflix.
Oh, who after years on Grey’s Anatomy, finally got her time to shine in the Emmy Award-Winning Killing Eve… Was born to play this role in The Chair. The veteran actress chews the scenery in every moment that she is given in this show and she proves why she is one of the most watchable performers working today. The character she plays, Ji-Yoon, is a complicated and tragic one. Although she has so much to give and a determination to succeed, she is constantly being torn down by everyone else around her.
In any other performer’s hands, Ji-Yoon would be a character that you only felt sorry for, and probably not have been captivated by. But, Oh injects every ounce of herself into this role and she is breathtaking. Though at times, it can be exhausting for the viewer to be put in her shoes as the despair of the series deepens, she never allows you to loosen your grip on rooting for her to triumph.
WHAT DOES THIS SHOW PROVIDE THAT YOU CANNOT FIND ANYWHERE ELSE?
SANDRA OH, NANA MENSAH and HOLLAND TAYLOR in The Chair. Courtesy of Netflix.
What The Chair has only just started and what I am so excited for them to continue in future episodes, is the observations of the disparity between generations. I can’t think of another series that has tackled multi-generational conflict in such an astute way. The senior teachers who have tenure are being forced to retire, a touted middle-age white male professor goes on a journey of self-discovery and he students of the college are fighting for their voices to be heard. It is so rare to see a show successfully represent so many people of different ages, in a way that feels authentic and rings true, like in The Chair. And the showrunners, including actress Amanda Peet, have found the perfect setting to take on these hot topics of race, sexism, ageism and cancel culture among many other things, in that of a collegiate school.
WHAT IS THE ONE ISSUE WITH THE CHAIR?
SANDRA OH and JAY DUPLASS in The Chair. Courtesy of Netflix.
When it comes to the supporting cast, they are all fantastic. Especially Jay Duplass, Nana Mensah and Holland Taylor, who all give winning turns. But, never given enough time to shine or flesh out their characters (sans Duplass, who gets a very strong story arc). And that is my major issue with “The Chair”, despite my ringing endorsement for it. Once again Netflix has a winner on their hands, and we are only given six half-hour episodes to invest ourselves in this world and these characters. It feels as if the showrunners have just gotten started peeling back the layers of all of these issues within the story, and then they’ve been forced to conclude it. The final episode of the season feels so rushed that I nearly had a conniption once I realized that was all we were going to get.
Netflix needs to realize that to invest audiences in a show and to leave a lasting impact, we need more time. Six episodes will never be enough. And although “The Chair” does its best to say everything that it wants too… there is a feeling of “That’s it!?” that pervades as the final episode’s credits roll.
BUT, REALLY… HOW GOOD IS IT!?
SANDRA OH in The Chair. Courtesy of Netflix.
Luckily, despite this one issue I have with The Chair, the only reason I have it is because the six episodes we’ve been given are so great. The show has done a fantastic job balancing dark and dry humor, creating fascinating character studies of people of different races, genders and ages and finally, tackling hot button issues without ever taking itself too seriously. “The Chair” has a lot to say, so hopefully Netflix will allow it to spread its wings and broaden its scope in a second season.
All six episodes of The Chair will be streaming on Netflix, August 20th.
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