Petit Plaisir: The Chair w/Sandra Oh

Aug 23, 2021

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Sandra Oh stars in the new comedy series co-created by Amanda Peet, and it is a hit. The Chair.

Typically, the Petit Plaisirs here on TSLL are paired with a new podcast episode (The Simple Sophisticate), but I could not wait to recommend a series as I know many readers and listeners step back into the classroom in a matter of days, weeks and some are already full-swing back into academia, and well, it’s just worth watching and I couldn’t wait to share. 🙂

Already raved about by The Atlantic as the best drama to hit television in years, the reviewers can’t seem to agree which genre it falls into, but they can agree it’s a hit. I am going to call it a comedy as creator Amanda Peet herself shared that her objective “had always been to write a romantic comedy in the vein of ‘Tootsie’ or ‘Broadcast News’. I didn’t set out to take a stand on anything. I meant to truly make an intimacy piece and a workplace romantic comedy like the ones that I love.” (NYTimes)

After watching the first three of the seven episodes in Season One on Netflix, my mind is made up: Watch this satirical comedy centered around Sandra Oh’s character Ji-Yoon Kim who has just been tapped as the first female and woman of color for the English department chair at the fictitious Pembrook University (filming took place at Pittsburgh as well as Jefferson and Washington University).

Subtle, yet sure-handed, the satire strikes at a variety of societal norms currently being challenged when it comes to gender norms, the patriarchy, ageism, social media misinformation, and free speech, and that’s all within the first episode.

Admittedly, as an English teacher for the past two decades, catching the allusions and witticisms by the professors is a treat, especially when they poke fun at areas of heated debate – curriculum, seniority, tenure, etc.. English geek alert? Perhaps, but I come by it honestly. Bring on the Chaucer! But don’t forget contemporary works of art already being canonized such as Ta Nehisi Coates’s insight and courage.

What I appreciate about the creation of the lead character Ji-Yoon Kim (Oh), is their choice to keep her strong. Of course, any protagonist must be flawed in some way, but they don’t give her relationship problems to the extreme. They don’t put her in a secondary seat. They give her respect for her choice to pursue her career, ‘ascend her profession’ as her colleague commends, and take us into her personal life as an adoptive mother experiencing the unrealistic realities put upon mothers who choose to do both, especially single mothers. Of course, the stress and ‘problems’ will ensue as her love-interest becomes embroiled in a problem, even though taken out of context, of his own making.

Oh’s brilliance is her unassuming humor in everyday situations, and as an actress who can dance from drama to suspense to comedy effortlessly, there is no doubt in my mind the series will be back for two, three or more seasons. And I will be watching each one. Check out the trailer below, and enjoy the series now on Netflix. I’m heading back into my living room to watch one more episode, okay, maybe the rest of the season. 🙂

~The Petit Plaisirs will continue to be shared on Monday when a new podcast episode goes live wherever you enjoy listening to your favorite shows, and look for Season 8 to begin September 6th.

The schedule for Season 8 will be shared next Monday August 30th, and I cannot wait to get back behind the microphone after the summer break.



15 thoughts on “Petit Plaisir: The Chair w/Sandra Oh

  1. Somehow The Chair had already come up on my FB feed – I think from Netflix. But when I saw you mention it on Fridays This & That I thought I should properly check it out. Well ….. I ended up watching all episodes of season one. Purely by accident, when they are roughly 30 mins long it isn’t difficult to tell yourself, just one more. I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially Holland Taylor’s character.

    1. It is so hard to stop! I completely understand. I usually can pause and enjoy one an evening, but this series did a good job of gently keeping you intrigued enough to just watch and enjoy. Not big hooks, just well written and engaging characters.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation. I watched the series over the weekend. Very interesting, well done. Pertinent, accurate and of today. Although as a teacher myself, I might have a bias here. 😉 Professor Joan is my favourite, too!

  3. BInged on the whole season and was wishing for more. Bill Dobson’s response during the suspension scene on why he became a teacher rings so true.

    1. Robin,

      I agree! His explanation of how a story holds you was quite contemplative. I will have to go back and listen again to absorb it more fully. I enjoyed his character immensely.

  4. I started watching after you recommended it last week, and am so hooked. I spent most of my career in university settings, and this show is spot on – one of my favorite scenes is Kim quietly correcting, “Whom,” unable to stop herself. Been there! This show is a delight. I’m so glad there will be more episodes.

  5. Your recommendations are always appreciated, and spot-on for my tastes. I too watched the first 3 episodes of The Chair this weekend, along with current Ted Lasso episode (love love love), and I ended the day with The Great British Bake Off.

    I am really enjoying this intelligent comedy/drama and its unique background setting in a Dept. of English. Another few episodes are to be viewed tonight! It feels good to have something to look forward to, knowing it will be enjoyed!

    I keep a list of many film/series you post and recommend, as I do not have some of the streaming platforms…but maybe in the future!?

    Have a lovely week!

    1. Sabine,

      Wasn’t this week’s episode of Ted Lasso fun! Love the Nora Ephron allusions to When Harry Met Sally and so many more rom-coms. It just made me smile. And yes, the setting and smart writing is a welcomed change. I know there is some confusion about whether it’s a comedy or drama, but smart comedy need not be laugh-out-loud constantly or at all. I look forward to seeing what they will do in the second season.

      Thank you for sharing how you keep tabs on ideas found here on TSLL. Yes, having so many different streaming services makes it difficult. I find myself subscribing to some for a period of time, then stopping to subscribe to others depending upon what I want to watch, and keeping a list as well. Thankfully, there is quite an abundance of good content on most of the platforms.

      Thank you for sharing all that you have and for stopping by. 🙂

  6. As a result of a bit of illness, I watched it all, in one or two sittings. I would probably put it in the satirical comedy genre but can also see other storylines finding a different direction. Sandra Oh has the ability to translate thoughts with facial expressions alone. The cast selection was brilliant IMO. I taught briefly in a university setting and recognize many of the nuances I experienced as a non-tenured underling. I am from Pittsburgh, there were some familiar settings as well! Thanks for the heads-up!

    1. Lucy,

      You nailed it! It is her facial expressions! So expressive. 🙂 I think that is precisely why the comedy genre is unacknowledged by some as it is subtle.

      In America, (we have this conversation each year in class during the satire unit), students equate ha-ha – laugh-out-loud humor as satire, when something need not make you laugh to be satire and not all humor is satire. This takes us a week or a couple of classes to grasp, but once they grab hold of the definition of satire – “the use of humor, ridicule, irony or exaggeration to expose and/or criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics or other topical issues with the purpose of provoking change”, they look for the three requirements and then can determine if it is indeed satire whether created here in America or abroad as different cultures’ satire is different.

      I think this series will hit home for many reasons and you just explained one – many people have worked in academia and can relate in one way or another. And many more of us have been students on a college campus, which makes it all the more interesting to observe the current generation and what they are navigating.

  7. We’ve been talking about reassessing our TV feeds all summer but haven’t gotten to it until now — I’m definitely going to sign us up for Netflix so we can watch this & off-load some of the stuff we never watch. I’m not a teacher but I was partially raised by one (my grandmother, a very proper English English teacher), so I’m always yelling things at the TV like “it’s either unique or it’s not unique, unique is not scalable!” (although apparently it now is, to my annoyance, but not in MY house!!), “LIE not LAY — chickens lay, people lie! You do not LAY on your bed unless there’s an egg there when you get up”, “number, not amount!”, “fewer, not less!” And my huge peeve nowadays: using “I” when it should be “me”. I keep hearing things like “it’s all up to my husband and I”, & I shriek “me, me, it’s all up to ME!!” LOL! Nothing worse than an old grammar purist dealing with modern television. And once again, thanks for the recommendation.

  8. I will definitely be checking this out. I just finished up the available episodes of Grace & Frankie. Hopefully this will fill the void for the next few months.🙂

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