Episode 1 – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 2 – | Review Score – 2/5
Episode 3 – | Review Score – 2/5
Episode 4 – | Review Score -2.5/5
Episode 5 – | Review Score – 2/5
Episode 6 – | Review Score – 2/5
The Chair is a bit of a mess. Flitting between different comedic states and plot threads, Netflix’s latest comedy/drama hybrid feels like a half-baked hodgepodge of ideas – and none of them fleshed out enough to make for compelling viewing.
In the driving seat for this, and doing most of the heavy lifting in truth, is Sandra Oh. She does a wonderful job bringing the first female chair at Pembroke University, Ji-Yoon, to life with enough flaws and smartly written quips to keep you rooting for her.
Unfortunately that’s soon drowned out by a story rife with holes and an ending that feels like it’s been written with the intention of a cathartic conclusion but ironically resolving absolutely nothing in the process.
The big drama here stems from Ji-Yoon’s tough job as chair. Juggling being a professor with leading the English department, dean Larson brings the damning truth to Ji-Yoon. Enrollments are down, students are becoming interestingly disinterested and the university is bleeding money. In order to offset that, Larson gives Ji-Yoon the unenviable task of reducing the wage bill and axing three teachers.
Gravitating around this main drama is self destructive Bill. Following the loss of his wife a year prior, he’s propped up on a heady dose of pills, alcohol and self destructive behaviour. He shows up at school hungover and a particularly questionable lecture sees him in serious trouble with the faculty.
In the midst of all this though, Bill is sorta-romantically linked with Ji-Yoon, reinforcing just why you should never mix business with pleasure. That’s before mentioning Ju-Ju, Ji-Yoon’s daughter who’s struggling to find her own identity.
A handful of other professors have their own subplots but across this breezy six episode show, The Chair feels tonally conflicted between being a political examination of the education system and a quirky workplace comedy. The ensuing result in an awkwardly contrived show that feels like it’s trying way too hard with its comedy and not enough with its big dramatic points.
Perhaps that’s to be expected given the writers for this show have no prior writing credentials on big screenplays – at least not according to IMDB anyway. This definitely shows in the way the comedy is handled here, which feels very much like “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” territory.
There are vulgar jokes, slapstick moments, misunderstanding tropes, wordplay, satire and even shockingly dark jokes too.
Along with the main issue of the show not actually resolved or even mentioned by the end is the ill-handling of Bill’s issues. His problems stem from doing a Nazi salute in class. As this goes viral, the show jumps between turning this into a “hilarious” series of jokes about Hitler and a serious dramatic point rife for examination. Bill’s apathy toward the whole event does absolutely nothing for his character either.
The Chair does have some good ideas about the education system and equality at its heart but it’s overshadowed by Bill’s woes which, quite frankly, just aren’t that interesting.
Storytelling is this show’s biggest problem and between the confused tone of the series and misplaced humour comes a meandering plot that resolves absolutely nothing by the end of its run-time. If anything Pembroke’s in an even more dire state when it ends compared to how it starts. Sandra Oh does well here but she alone can’t save this one.