Sandra Oh, who can easily be called a national treasure, has always been a comedic genius. She gifted us the Golden Globe-winning role of Christina Yang in Grey’s Anatomy then with her Emmy nominated performance as Eve in Kill Eve. Now Oh is playing and is the executive producer of the new Netflix comedy, The chair.
The six-part, half-hour series centers on Korean-American professor Ji-Yoon Kim (Oh), who has just been hired to chair the English department at prestigious Pembroke University. As it turns out, she is the first woman and the first woman of color to secure this coveted position.
As she sets out to deal with the crisis brought to her by department staff, she also has to juggle being a single mother raising Ju Ju (Everly Carganilla), her adopted daughter of Mexican descent, and trying to overcome the myriad of cultural barriers that are pitted against it. It’s refreshing to also see a messy mixed-race adoption and watch Ji-Yoon work to get closer to Ju Ju, as the young girl goes wild for being adopted into a Korean-American family. It’s Oh’s first turn as a mom and she carries the richness of her role with a bang – not afraid to bring her parental insecurities to the fore as she tries her best to be successful while following. his career ambitions.
The show manages to use humor to deal with different issues of racism, sexism, and white privilege, often relying on Oh’s huge comedic chops to do the heavy lifting. His talents are here deployed to the maximum; Sometimes all it takes is a straightforward glance well delivered to make everyone laugh. It’s a really great show for her incredible range as an actress.
The series also acts as a stellar platform for the rest of the cast. Holland Taylor delivers a sublime performance as a homeroom teacher facing discrimination. She lights up every scene she’s in and we ask for more at every turn. Bob Balaban, also perfectly cast, plays the other side of the coin as a senior professor discriminating against a young black academic in his department. Jay Duplass is also in the game, who brings incredible warmth and humor to his role as Professor Bill Dobson. His chemistry with Oh is one of the real joys of the show.
Thematically, The chair focuses on educational institutions run by white males and the systemic issues created by the obvious imbalance of power. The challenges faced by women, and especially women of color, are cleverly addressed, but sometimes it feels like the show didn’t have enough time to properly talk about everything it wanted to say. during its three hours or so. The “culture cancellation” debacle that takes center stage at one point is taking up far more screen time than is necessary. If the green light was on for a second season, it would be nice to see these issues of racism, ageism, sexism and patriarchy more fully fleshed out, without losing that classic Oh, sure enough humor.
The chair is streaming now on Netflix.
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