07 September 2021 - The Chair: Campus Culture Wars
The Chair review – Sandra Oh is first class in moreish university satire
Lucy Mangan (The Guardian, 20/08/2021)
For those of us who waited desperately over the increasingly dour Killing Eve for Sandra Oh to be able to show her comic as well as dramatic druthers (and whatever can be said about the essentially emetic Grey’s Anatomy, it did allow Oh ample opportunity for both), The Chair arrives like manna from heaven.
In the new six-part series from Netflix, created by Amanda Peet and Annie Julia Wyman, Oh plays Professor Ji-Yoon Kim, who has just been appointed the first female chair of the English department at Pembroke University. It’s a slightly poisoned chalice – Pembroke is faring no better than any other school in attracting students to the most liberal of liberal arts subjects, or in persuading its antiquated staff to move with the times or else move on to retirement. But Kim sets to work, while also coping with her adoptive daughter Ju Ju’s expanding repertoire of boundary-testing skills (Everly Carganilla, that rare young beast who leaves you looking forward to seeing more of both the character and the actor) and negotiating the growing complexities of her relationship with her crush, former peer and now subordinate, lecturer Bill Dobson (Jay Duplass).
New Netflix drama The Chair is honest and funny, but it still romanticises modern university life
Nik Taylor and Heather Fraser (The Conversation, 26/08/2021)
The central theme of new Netflix drama The Chair is timely and gets a lot right about racial politics in modern American academia. Smart, incisive, nicely written and acted, it’s a genuinely rewarding binge watch.
As senior academic women ourselves, we were excited to see how aspects of our own professional lives might be reflected in the show, and we could relate to much of it. In particular, the deft commentary on the increasing commercialisation of academic life resonates strongly.
Sandra Oh’s ‘The Chair’ has its flaws. But its Asian American protagonist is unlike anyone I’ve seen on TV.
Inkoo Kang (The Washington Post, 20/08/2021)
The view from Professor Ji-Yoon Kim’s (Sandra Oh) glass cliff is beautiful, in a brown-brick, old-book-smell sort of way. Vivaldi trumpets on the soundtrack as the literature scholar drives into campus on a wintry, bare-branched day to start her tenure as Pembroke University’s first female chair of the English department. The stone paths and dark-wood halls she passes on the way to her spacious, lamp-lit office foreshadow the inflexibility Ji-Yoon will soon face from the administration and her colleagues, who have entrusted her to save the department from falling enrollment and soaring irrelevance, but are unwilling to do their part to ensure that any change actually takes place.
The Chair review: Sandra Oh college drama outstrips its expected grades
Ed Cumming (The Independent, 20/08/2021)
I’m probably biased as it was my degree, but setting a TV series in a university English department seems brave verging on kamikaze. Reading all those poems and plays and novels is bad enough, let alone watching people talking about reading them. The stakes could hardly be lower. Who will get tenure? Who will be cancelled? Will the teaching of Chaucer survive the 21st century? Who cares? As premises go, it’s not exactly “teacher turns to crystal meth” or “drug kingpins in Baltimore” or even “1950s advertising agency”.