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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

The Chair

Available on Netflix / Film & TV

The Netflix series starring Sandra Oh isn’t about a death-row execution but something almost as bad: becoming the chairman of the English department in an old, liberal-arts college where the faculty is almost all white, male, and elderly, and the student body is aroil with woke passions. Oh plays the first woman chair of her department, and its first Asian-American, and she is torn between protecting her sclerotic crew of older colleagues and bringing youth—and diversity and social relevance—into a very old-school establishment. Jay Duplass plays a hopelessly dysfunctional professor in the tradition of Simon Gray’s T. S. Eliot scholar in the play Butley, but some of the best performances are the dotty yet knowing professors fighting emeritus status, played by Bob Balaban and Holland Taylor. In real life, academia can seem like a total joke, but The Chair is a sophisticated comedy, written with sympathy as well as satire. —Alessandra Stanley

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