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Super Soundtrack TV/Film Reviews

Review + Super Soundtrack: “The Chair” on Netflix

Workplace, dramedy, and satire might seem like quite the hodge podge of words to describe one show, but they’re all accurate characteristics of “The Chair.”

Workplace, dramedy, and satire might seem like quite the hodge podge of words to describe one show, but they’re all accurate characteristics of The Chair.

The way it critiques power from a patriarchal sense, from a conservative stance, and from a position within academia is frankly unlike anything you’ve probably seen before. Colleges and universities across America are ushering in a new era with an older-skewing, predominantly white faculty and staff catering to their young, multicultural student body. That has its own set of unique challenges, and The Chair does a pretty excellent job at tackling all the big ones. 

Coming it at only six episodes — brief little bite-sized half-hour nuggets — it’s packed to the brim with refreshing takes that never overstay their welcome. Because I know how a bunch of you consume your television right now, many of you consume these fast paced funny few episodes as if they’re a three-hour film, and even then, it works pretty well. 

It’s unfortunate how truthful fictional Pembroke University’s depiction of life as an educator can be. There are professors out there stuck in basement offices without a window. There are professors who are aging out of their university brochure-friendly appearance being pushed to the edge so they’ll retire right away. There are deserving professors who haven’t made tenure just yet, who haven’t locked in a full-time position, fearing for the safety of their job every single day. There are problematic professors that will never get the punishment they deserve. There are brilliant professors who will never be championed for the hard work and the extra lengths they go to in making the classroom a positive space for their students.

I am admittedly more in tune with the current state of academics as it pertains to those providing the education (my mother is an educator), but things seem a little rocky across the board, literally.

It’s unfortunate how truthful fictional Pembroke University’s depiction of life as an educator can be. There are professors out there stuck in basement offices without a window. There are professors who are aging out of their university brochure-friendly appearance being pushed to the edge so they’ll retire right away. There are deserving professors who haven’t made tenure just yet, who haven’t locked in a full-time position, fearing for the safety of their job every single day. There are problematic professors that will never get the punishment they deserve. There are brilliant professors who will never be championed for the hard work and the extra lengths they go to in making the classroom a positive space for their students.

College professors in the mainstream media often get portrayed as snobby, elite, eccentric individuals who are part of a wine-sipping, suit-and-tie partying bunch. Truth is, they might not be that close, they might not all see eye to eye, and they may not be as overflowing and bubbly as other series or films.

Starring Sandra Oh, Jay Duplass, Holland Taylor, Bob Balaban, Nana Mensah, David Morse, and Everly Carganilla, this show has quite the stacked ensemble cast, but that has proven time and time again to just not be enough sometimes. The Chair is the prime puzzle of a stellar cast, a relevant script, witty performances, spot-on comedic timing, and a brilliant creative direction. 

Now that you know where I stand on the series, let’s break down the music from the show…

Episode 1: “Brilliant Mistake”

“Uncontrollable Urge”

Heard while Bill (Jay Duplass) is on his bike

“Tinseltown Swimming in Blood” by Destroyer

Heard while Joan (Holland Taylor) is texting Ji-Yoon (Sandra Oh)

“Brilliant Mistakes” by Elvis Costello

Heard during the episode’s final scene and continuing on into the end credits

Episode 2: “The Faculty Party”

“I’m A Winner” by Smoked Sugar

Heard while Bill (Jay Duplass) is biking to work

“Do You Dig It” by Ray Barretto

Heard while Bill (Jay Duplass), Ji-Yoon (Sandra Oh), and her daughter Ju-Hee (Everly Carganilla) are bowling together

“4Runner” by Rostand

Heard while Ji-Yoon (Sandra Oh) and Bill (Jay Duplass) are talking in the car

“Girlfriend” by Phoenix

Heard while Ji-Yoon (Sandra Oh) and her daughter Ju-Hee (Everly Carganilla) are getting ready for the day

“Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” by Rufus Wainwright

Heard playing over the episode’s end credits

Episode 3: “The Town Hall”

No songs

Episode 4: “Don’t Kill Bill”

“Flowers (Nothing But)” by Talking Heads

Heard while Bill (Jay Duplass) and Ju-Hee (Everly Carganilla) are hanging out together

“Paris Summer” by Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood

Heard when Joan (Holland Taylor) meets up with the guy in the library

“Deceptacon” by Le Tigre

Heard while Bill (Jay Duplass) is chasing after Ju-Hee (Everly Carganilla)

“Cemetry Gates” by The Smiths

Heard when Bill (Jay Duplass), Ji-Yoon (Sandra Oh), and Ju-Hee (Everly Carganilla) are getting into the car together, and the song continues to play on into the end credits

Episode 5: “The Last Bus in Town”

“It’s a good day (to fight the system)” by Shungudzo

Heard when the title card drops

“Backseat Swinging” by Coolhand Jax

Heard while Bill (Jay Duplass) is walking on the sidewalk and as Ji-Yoon (Sandra Oh) arrives at the home of David Duchovney (yes, that David Duchovney)

“Hell or Highwater” by David Duchovny

Heard while Ji-Yoon (Sandra Oh) is driving in her car

“Calling All Angels” by Jane Siberry & k.d. lang

Heard when Ji-Yoon (Sandra Oh) arrives home from work, and the song plays on into the end credits

Episode 6: “The Chair”

“Oxford Comma” by Vampire Weekend

Heard as the final song as we overlook the college campus, and it continues to play over the end credits

The show is now streaming on Netflix. Stream the series here.

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