Most workplace comedies are targeted toward a younger audience, but what I appreciate about Netflix’s new show “The Chair” is that it doesn’t overcomplicate itself with excessive storylines. The everyday humor added into it makes for a great comedic drama that works for a variety of different audiences.
“The Chair” stars Sandra Oh as Ji-Yoon, who starts her new position as the chair of the English department at Pembroke college. There is little time to enjoy her new promotion as the department is lacking students and has fallen into a PR crisis.
The shining storyline is the personal life of Professor Ji-Yoon, as she tries to balance her new promotion with her personal life. Ji-Yoon and her daughter JuJu haven’t found the perfect way to connect as JuJu is adopted.
JuJu is Mexican and she is being brought up in a Korean household. This is very distressing to young JuJu and it causes her to get confused and retaliate, which further troubles Ji-Yoon’s life. While some surrounding characters in the show might find this confusing, the show itself makes their story seamless by not feeling the need to over-explain it to the audience.
On top of her complicated home life, Ji-Yoon is asked to fire three professors as they aren’t liked by students, haven’t updated their teachings and are old. Ji-Yoon does everything she can to respect the old professors by keeping them employed, but still has to find a way to move toward a more inclusive, progressive and successful department with their more traditional ways.
The downfall of this show was the confusing love story between Ji-Yoon and Professor Dobson, played by Jay Duplass. Their chemistry as actors and as characters is amazing, but the aspect that frustrates me is how much of a confusing mess Dobson is. He is one of the main causes for the English department being in trouble and yet he is too stubborn to care enough to properly fix any of the problems he created.
Along with the mess of his actions, the love story the show presents is confusing as well. He is a widower, as his wife passed away around a year ago, and he is clearly mourning her loss but is throwing himself into another relationship.
At the end of the show, all Dobson’s problems just get swept under the rug, as if all the issues going on in the English department were fixed with a magic button. I would’ve loved to see Dobson’s grief and him properly resolving the problems he created more, but at the end I felt as if they were just simply restarting his character’s story.
Seeing the nuances of this show through the eyes of women of color being underappreciated in higher education is something I hope to see continued in a second season.