The Joke’s on Hitler in Smart New Netflix Comedy ‘The Chair’

When was the last clock you saw something in truth funny on Netflix ? I don ’ t mean an imported show like “ Brooklyn Nine-Nine ” or “ Call My agent ! ” Nor an unintentionally curious one like “ Ratched, ” which seemed to be written strictly with a drink game in mind ( “ Take a shot every fourth dimension Sharon Stone plays with her tamper ” – and no, this is not a euphemism ). I ’ m besides not including a brainy one-off drollery special like Bo Burnham ’ s “ Inside, ” which may end up being the show that best captures those long months of lockdown and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

No, what I ’ megabyte referring to are Netflix-produced sitcoms and series that truly make you laugh out loud – if only there were a alert way to write that – and introduce memorable, new characters into the pop culture dictionary. That might seem a tad harsh – like asking Prof. Sarah Gilbert “ Yeah, but what have you achieved since the vaccine ? ” But networks do it all the time. In Ted Lasso, Apple TV+ presently has television ’ s most memorable comedian initiation. And HBO just gave us a whole horde of memorable characters and laughs in “ The White Lotus ” ( the great news is that a second base temper is in the works, albeit on a different recourse and with new characters ). But who has Netflix sent forth into the worldly concern to make us laugh and generate water-cooler moments ? Congratulations if you answered “ Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim ” and “ Prof. Bill Dobson, ” because the new series “ The Chair ” is a blowy six-part drollery set in the world of academia that generates plenty of yuks and introduces memorable characters. It successfully manages to balance references to T.S. Eliot and critical race theory with plenty of zingers and slapstick temper from an excellent cast led by Sandra Oh. Yes, it does unashamedly grab some low-hanging fruit – you ’ ll never guess what happens when person starts burning a bunch of papers in her function – but doesn ’ metric ton that fruit sample just ampere fresh as the harder-to-access stuff higher up ? That was a genuine question, by the way : Should I be asking my grocer where the apples were located on those trees ? not only is Sandra Oh ’ s Kim the first gear female moderate of the English department at ( the fictional ) Pembroke College ; she ’ sulfur besides the first person of semblance to fill the prestigious character – and all this at a staff that is so overwhelmingly old and white, you could mistake it for a Fox News town hall. To say that it is the best of times and the worst of times at Pembroke would only be half right field, though it is safe to say that it is both the long time of wisdom and the age of folly at this underperform, poison-ivy-league institute. The prove, afloat with Vivaldi on the soundtrack to presumably denote the “ rarified air ” of academia, was filmed at the quite attractive-looking Washington & Jefferson College and Chatham University, both in Pennsylvania. But while the buildings may make you wish you ’ vitamin d studied there, most of the lecturers won ’ thymine. “ The Chair ” divides its time between campus high jinks among the aging professors – though decidedly not the type seen in “ National Lampoon ’ s Animal House ” – and a family moral force involving single ma Kim and her adopted young daughter JuJu ( Everly Carganilla, risking collar for the issue of scenes she steals ).

Everly Carganilla as JuJu and Sandra Oh as Ji-Yoon in “The Chair.”


It ’ mho actually these domestic scenes between an american Korean mother and her daughter, and besides Kim ’ south Korean widower beget Habi ( Ji-yong Lee ), that feel the freshest and funniest to these eyes. For exemplify, there ’ s a bang-up occupation where Kim has to explain why her daughter international relations and security network ’ t allowed to take her Hello Kitty plush toy to her grandfather ’ south firm ( “ She had to leave him at home because Dad hasn ’ t recovered from the japanese occupation ” ). There ’ south besides a fantastic episode involving a korean doljanchi ceremony celebrating a child ’ south first birthday. Said ceremony involves the child picking out an aim out of several choices before them – like a paintbrush, pencil or banknote – that will purportedly mark out their future. Call it career choices. Or Korea choices. It ’ s a capture glance into korean culture ( though Oh herself is canadian, both her parents are Korean ), and is in abrupt contrast to the on-screen academician global, which is populated by some very familiar figures. here we encounter befogged professors whose call on the carpet notes were stopping point update prior to the invention of Microsoft Word. At the other end of the scale are painfully dear students who actually need to remove that shtik from their buttocks. then there ’ s a debauched didactic deity who gets into trouble after a video goes viral of him doing a Hitler salute during a lecture.

Jay Duplass’s Prof. Bill Dobson finds himself under fire from the students in “The Chair.”


Okay, so that one is very different, and is besides the third great reason to watch the indicate after Oh and the korean slant. ( A fourth is David Duchovny, having frightful playfulness sending himself up in a cameo appearance as himself. ) Jay Duplass – probably best known on riddle for playing Josh Pfefferman in “ Transparent, ” and off screen for his collaborations with brother Mark on the HBO shows “ Togetherness ” and “ Room 104 ” ( they besides executive produced the recent excellent objective “ not Going restfully, ” about activist Ady Barkan ) – is Bill Dobson, a individual dad who isn ’ metric ton sol much struggling to keep it together since his wife died a year ago and his daughter just went off to study at Columbia, as failing miserably. Duplass has an easy spell and his chemistry with both Oh and her on-screen daughter provide the show with its beat, warm heart. He besides gets some of the best lines, like when he ’ s being told to take a disciplinary hearing badly after his Hitler debacle ( “ I will not embarrass the Fatherland ! ” ). With a fib bow that concludes at the end of six 30-minute episodes, “ The Chair ” frequently feels as if it could have worked barely arsenic well as a movie ( I wouldn ’ thymine be surprised to learn that it started life as a movie script and only subsequently metamorphosed into a television indicate ). hush, I ’ m glad the show ’ s creators – actress Amanda Peet ( who starred in “ Togetherness ” ) and writer Annie Julia Wyman ( herself a postdoctoral lector at Stanford, so she knoweth of what she writeth when it comes to stuffy English departments ) went for the longer-form approach, because there is plenty more to explore with these characters in potential future seasons. For anyone who thinks the use of Hitler for comedic purposes is in poor taste, it ’ randomness worth noting that Peet is herself jewish and that this particular storyline was inspired after she heard how Mel Brooks based the “ Springtime for Hitler ” sung in “ The Producers ” on his desire to enjoy the end joke over both the Führer and antisemites everywhere ( including those he served with in the U.S. Army ). And, yes, “ Springtime for Hitler ” does make a abbreviated appearance in “ The Chair. ”

As affable and enjoyable as the show is, a second season may not be able to avoid delving into the culture wars that apparently dominate american campuses these days. That will be the big challenge because, unlike Hitler, that may prove no laughing matter. ‘Gone for Good’ (Netflix) talk of drink games, here ’ s a Harlan Coben one guarantee to get you drunk quicker than a Taliban advance. All you have to do is take a sip whenever any of the comply happen in a Coben appearance : ■ A caption appears reading “ XX years earlier ” / “ XX years subsequently. ” ■ A person is missing, presumed abruptly, though their consistency has never been found. ■ A soundbox is suddenly found in the woods, years after the person went missing. ■ The decision a character makes in their youth comes binding to haunt them, merely when they think they ’ ve moved on. ■ A charwoman in a car stares at the supporter, before receding into the distance. ■ The fib on the spur of the moment switches perspective to give us another quality ’ second backstory. ■ A character says, “ I must tell you something about my by – something … black. ” You ’ ll be pleased to hear that quite a few of these tropes are present in “ Gone for Good, ” the latest Coben adaptation to slip off the Netflix production line. This one has been relocated from the United States to southern France. It ’ s a reasonably solid five-part thriller that ’ south better than some of his previous Netflix adaptations ( like the Spain-set “ The Innocent ” ) but below the gold standard, Polish-set “ The Woods. ” Damn – I about resisted the urge to call him a Harlan globetrotter. “ Gone for Good ” the novel is arguably one of Coben ’ s most jewish stories – starting as it does with a shiva for the ma of its male supporter, Will Klein. It even mentions a dancing cabaret at a Jewish Community Center in New Jersey, though the script ’ s most improbable plot point is surely that Will ’ s elder brother, Ken, was once a young tennis ace – which seems to fly in the face of all known jewish sporting history. All of that is jettisoned in this Gallic adaptation, with Will becoming the rather bland Guillaume Lucchesi ( played by Finnegan Oldfield, whose distinctly un-French-sounding name can be blamed on his english roots ). His rewarding animation as a social worker – helping homeless kids stay out of trouble on the sun-kissed streets of Nice – starts to unravel after he proposes to his girlfriend, Judith ( Nailia Harzoune ), and she reacts adenine if he ’ randomness good asked her to spend the workweek with him in Kandahar. The show focuses on the backstory of a different character in each episode – another familiar Coben adaptation trope – and takes place over many different time periods and places. These stretch back to 2005, which besides stretches the credulity of how little people obviously old age in 15 years.

Guillaume Gouix, left, and Finnegan Oldfield as Daco and Guillaume in the Harlan Coben adaptation “Gone for Good.”

Credit: Magali Bragard / Netflix

Driving it all is the disappearance of two people – Judith and Guillaume ’ s long-dead brother, Fred ( Nicolas Duvauchelle ), whose love of white lines apparently didn ’ metric ton period at the tennis court. “ Betrayal is the oldest crime, ” the show ’ s tagline proclaims, though the mystery here is who ’ s doing the betray. It ’ s not a huge mystery, to be honest, but it did keep me happily watching along. ( One discussion of advice : Avoid the end credits until after episode five, because they unwittingly contain a major spoiler about one finical actress. ) “ Gone for Good ” the novel was preceded by Coben ’ s breakthrough score “ Tell No One. ” I besides watched the 2006 film adaptation of that one – besides set in France – and what ’ s particularly noticeable after viewing both adaptations back-to-back is that Coben ’ s plot-heavy tales actually need four or five hours in which to unpack all those backstories. Compressed into two hours, “ Tell No One ” becomes a smear of characters and incidents, some of which only make sense toward the history ’ s ending, but not in a satisfactory manner. There are no such problems with “ Gone for Good. ” alternatively, its biggest problem is some plot holes the size of a Renault Captur, which will leave you screaming at the sieve, “ Why is cipher mentioning this preferably obvious steer ? ! ”

Nailia Harzoune as Judith in “Gone for Good.”

Credit: Magali Bragard / Netflix

In case you haven ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate worked it out, I ’ m a sucker for Coben ’ south work – though I wasn ’ t such a fan of the unnecessarily violent “ The Innocent ” from earlier this year – and am already looking forward to the future Netflix adaptation on the horizon, the English-set “ Stay Close. ” That ’ south credibly why I ’ thousand uncoerced to cut “ Gone for Good ” some lax ra : those plot holes. In recompense, the testify has some beautiful shots of the french Riviera and a topical subplot about neo-Nazis and the reactionary – though when is that never topical ? still, even Amanda Peet might struggle to wring a few laughs out of that particular storyline. “ The Chair ” drops on Netflix this Friday while “ Gone for Good ” is out immediately, besides on Netflix.

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