The Chair: Season 1, Full Season
August 24, 2021 3:03 PM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

At a major university, the first woman of color to become chair tries to meet the dizzying demands and high expectations of a failing English department. Starring Sandra Oh and created by Amanda Peet and Annie Wyman for Netflix.

NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour invited Karen Tongson, chair and professor of gender and sexuality studies at USC Dornsife, to provide an interesting view on the series from "inside the ivory tower".
posted by autopilot (12 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Greatly enjoyed Everly Carganilla as Ju-Hee, and Holland Taylor as Joan Hambling. Also, this show had very unexpected celebrity cameo.

Past that, not as much of a comedy as I was expecting; appreciated the willingness of the show to approach current controversial areas in academia, but felt there was no real bite.
posted by nubs at 4:19 PM on August 24, 2021

I concur with Karen Tongson on PCHH that the students were kinda given short shrift, made out to be rather silly and shallow. But even so I like so much of the writing. The two scenes between Holland Taylor as Joan and Michelle Do as the Title IX coordinator/sole employee of the ethics office are little masterpieces.
posted by minervous at 4:59 PM on August 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

I actually contacted the mods today asking them to add this to the list because I figured it would be of interest to the MeFi crowd.

I'm only two episodes in.

In the first episode, felt the nude video of the pregnant wife was gratuitous. I would have been much happier to see an equivalent video of the male professor. That would have humiliated him. Instead the dead wife was made to be the joke. That just left a bad taste in my mouth.

I agree with the AV Club review that some of the things that were meant to be shocking, like talking about sex and the novel, really wouldn't be that big a deal in an English, and some of those aspects were overplayed.
posted by sardonyx at 5:33 PM on August 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Omar (Human Material) Lizardo (@omar_lizardo):
Aug 21
If they made a realistic show about a dept chair no one would watch because every episode would be a 55 minute long take of someone carefully editing an email response
posted by Spathe Cadet at 4:39 AM on August 25, 2021 [14 favorites]

My problem was not so much with the students, though I agree they were mostly not there, or even with the lack of grad students (just one?) but honestly I wanted much more about Joan and Yaz and much, much, much less about Bill. (I did enjoy his interactions with Ju-Hee.)

Sandra Oh was great.
posted by jeather at 7:09 AM on August 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm so angry that whiny, man-baby Bill and the problems of his own making kept sucking away time and resources and support that Joan really deserved, but then again, that seems to be the way real life actually works. Not to mention the younger women of the department. They also deserved more from Ji-Yoon.
posted by sardonyx at 2:26 PM on August 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

It was pleasant and very well performed!

But I wasn't sure what the show actually felt about Bill - I think maybe the show felt like his redemptive parts countered all of the childish, destructive stuff more than I did.

And - no pun intended - I couldn't begin to tell you what the show's central thesis was?
posted by ominous_paws at 11:19 PM on August 25, 2021

And i enjoyed that they let the alt-right briefcase dweeb giving Bill props just be that one tiny moment rather than building it into a whole thing.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:24 PM on August 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

Brandon Taylor: The chair is peak jeans in church culture

It seems both eager to take on the larger questions facing our campuses today—free speech, diversity and equity, power dynamics, consent, sexual harassment, ongoing discussions of divestment, the ethics of labor all amid a perceived declined in the prestige and centrality of literary studies in the broader culture—and entirely too timid to approach them with something real to say. The result is a glancing critique that restates the issues without actually playing them out in nuanced and interesting ways.
posted by nubs at 10:28 AM on August 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

I really, really, could not drum up any sympathy for Bill, the white male professor who is used to getting away with shit based on 1 book (which I assume had some professor sleeping with a 'coed') and some white-male-professor charm, and is surprised when some of the shit actually sticks, then doubles down on the shit and continues to be surprised people don't think he's so cute anymore.
All the other characters had more compelling stories, that got short-shifted because of the not-surprising choice to focus on white male tears.
posted by signal at 2:27 PM on September 1, 2021

to me it wasn't even so much that the show focused too much on Bill (though it did) as that it sets up a moral "problem" that anyone with half an ounce of sense and genuine empathy would be able to solve with a fairly quick and sincere apology, but then makes Bill into a stubborn ass who refuses to do so -- which, fine, but then don't expect me to buy into the big turn that gets Ji-Yoon back on his side to be all about how being an English professor makes you the most empathetic person in the room

I don't at all mind the show's mean-and-lean writing approach, and it has more than a few moments that shine both in the writing and the acting, but ultimately most of the characters are less than half a step from caricature and there's no honest interrogation of theme or nuance. the first episode gave a superficial gloss over the culture and issues of an English department that felt like it was at least approaching truth from my experience, but it never even tries to get into any depth or specificity

bit of a shame, but still a pleasant watch on the strength of the acting alone. the piece nubs posted is spot-on
posted by Kybard at 6:21 PM on September 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Yeah I enjoyed the performances in this, but found the writing lacking. The central scandal was crafted in such a way to make Bill essentially blameless, but in practice these kind of campus condemnations almost never work like this! When you scratch the surface the professor in question has usually had a history of at least questionable behaviour.

Here they stack the decks by making Bill lovable and grieving his wife, and all so they could both sides it.

I also found Sandra Ohs character incredibly frustrating. She is deeply passive, fails to acheive anything not because of the headwind against her, but because she doesnt try very hard to do so.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:01 AM on October 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

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