Sandra Oh aces the lead role in acclaimed comedy-drama The Chair
There’s so much good stuff going in this new drama comedy series, where to even begin? What about Sandra Oh, who has stepped out of pure television dramas like Grey’s Anatomy and Killing Eve and dipped her feet in comedy waters? It’s a most agreeable temperature and she’s showing herself to be an accomplished swimmer. No surprise really; Oh has shown her range in various movies during her career.
The comedy, she felt, was necessary: “Oh grew hungry for a comedy after playing MI-5 agent Eve Polastri on BBC America’s Killing Eve, which she says took a psychological toll,” says USA Today.
The Chair, six little 30-minute episodes that tell a complete story so we can sit back at the end with a satisfied sigh in case it’s not renewed for another season (although it most likely will be if the early positive critics’ reviews are anything to go by; it reached 92% on Rotten Tomatoes before release date) is co-written by Amanda Peet (Dirty John). Who is married to co-executive producer of the show David Benioff. Yes, that David Benioff. The same one who co-produces here and on Game of Thrones, with DB Weiss.
“The first season of Netflix’s new dramedy The Chair feels like a prologue. Not only is the entire season shorter than The Irishman (six episodes at half an hour each) but it has a habit of introducing so many interesting ideas and characters only to then pull back from them, leaving you with the impression that this is all foreshadowing for a deeper story in season two,” predicts Rogerebert.com
Quite the power trip going on here. Luckily, the series lives up to it.
Oh plays Dr Ji-Yoon Kim, the first woman (not lady, please) chair of the English department at Pembroke University, and the first person of colour to sit in this position. As is often the case for women, Ji-Yoon has her work cut out for her as she attempts to keep everybody happy – which works as an overall metaphor for what the series does as it addresses social issues.
From this starting point, the story is richly layered with old professors whose classes are dull and empty and are being nudged out to pasture by the Dean; a hot mess younger professor who lurches from one mishap to another, sometimes of his own making, sometimes not; possible romantic feelings between said young professor and Ji-Yoon; culture clashes between Ji-Yoon and her father being Korean, and her adopted daughter being Mexican; internal politics at the university and explosive reactions to situations taken out of context but no less valid for that; and a hunt for an online troll. It’s all perfectly balanced with the central plot interwoven with the side arcs.
Joining Oh in the cast are David Morse as the Dean, Holland Taylor as a professor, Jay Duplass as the hapless Bill Dobson.
“It’s not exactly the show most would expect from executive producers DB Weiss and David Benioff’s massive Netflix deal, but it’s only more intriguing for it,” says Variety. “Oh consistently does the kind of acting that can smooth bumpy scripts to sell just about anything. It’s a relief, then, to see her dig into something like The Chair, which only sparingly requires that skill. Otherwise, she just gets to act the hell out of her role, and what a treat to get to see her do it.”