‘The Chair’ is a comedy-drama set in the antiquated English department of a prestigious university. When Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim, one of the few faculty members of color, becomes the first woman head of the department, a flurry of activity and ideological clashes ensue. Some are funny, many are disastrously unfair, and one in particular (Bill’s) is just plain unfortunate.
The show deftly juggles the many issues of racism, sexism, and general political correctness that intersect within the department, with the flustered but idealistic Ji-Yoon seemingly at the center of it all, making it a seemingly true commentary on university culture, and possibly even on life. If you enjoyed the intricately structured and chaotic academic world of the show and its many eclectic characters, we have some recommendations that are just as good. You can watch most of these shows similar to ‘The Chair’ on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
6. Grown-ish (2018-)
A spin-off of the hugely popular ‘Black-ish‘ — but every bit a compelling tale in its own right — ‘Grown-ish’ follows Zoey Johnson’s journey through college and the steep learning curve that comes with leaving the nest for the first time. Through her friendships, dilemmas, and a host of other experiences, Zoey learns that life on the outside and being an adult is very different from what she expected. Part coming of age and part social commentary, the chaos in this show is righteous and will take you back to Sandra Oh’s Ji-Yoon Kim and all her ups and downs as the English department Chair.
5. Everything Will Be Fine (2021-)
A couple that finally concludes that they are better apart, only to be then pulled together for the sake of their young daughter, makes up the central plot of this Spanish show from Mexico. Though technically not based in an academic or university environment, ‘Everything Will Be Fine’ channels a lot of what makes ‘The Chair’ such an engaging and poignant show, and you will find many topical issues effortlessly layered into the chaotic lives of the central characters, who are great at what they do (parenting), but also find their paths blocked by the world.
4. Coach (1989-1997)
A more vintage option for those looking for a simpler time, ‘Coach’ follows the eponymous Coach Fox of Minnesota State University (for most of the show), as he trains his team in the intricacies of sports and life while also grappling with his college-going daughter’s burgeoning adulthood. The political and social commentary might not be as pointed, but the show gives audiences a nice, detailed look at the nuances of college life from multiple perspectives, much like ‘The Chair.’ With 9 seasons and 200 half-hour episodes, this long-running show is a great little world to immerse yourself into, and the characters are much deeper than you might first imagine.
3. Undeclared (2001-2002)
A little-known gem from Judd Apatow, ‘Undeclared’ follows Steve Karp as he makes (or stumbles) his way through college. Joined by a host of entertaining characters, Steve decides to climb the social ladder and makes the journey a very worthwhile watch. With only 1 season, the show’s cult following is a testament to its premise and characters not just being skin deep, and ‘Undeclared’ puts across some weirdly uncomfortable situations that will likely remind you of the antics of Ji-Yoon’s eccentric faculty members.
2. Community (2009-2015)
One of the greatest shows about learning and coexistence in an academic environment, the range of topics, situations, and issues that ‘Community‘ touches upon is mind-boggling. From mental health to racism, sexual orientation, and even the dark realms of sci-fi, the show is truly fearless and all-encompassing.
What starts as a Spanish study group evolves into the most memorable ensemble of characters that will stay with you much after you have finished binging on the show. There are epic 2-part episodes focussed on pillow fights and blanket-forts that actually explore the intricacies of friendship and ego, and that is just one of many. If you liked the academic chaos of ‘The Chair,’ then ‘Community’ may become your holy grail.
1. Dear White People (2017-2021)
Sharp, poignant, and unapologetic, ‘Dear White People‘ and its characters are as direct as the show’s title. However, even the most motivated and clear-eyed social justice warriors face moments of crippling uncertainty, and this show captures that to perfection. While racism remains its main focus, the show and its intricately sketched-out characters dig deep and show us how issues are often inextricably connected. You will find some serious moral dilemmas and some very well-placed social commentary here. Like ‘The Chair,’ it all takes place in a prestigious university and the characters, despite being highly intellectual and accomplished, find themselves stumped by the gray areas of the real world.
Read More: The Chair Ending, Explained