'The Chair', which was not based on any particular college or incident, was filmed at Chatham University in Pittsburgh and Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa.

Older professors are being nudged aside, losing office space and enrollments. Those who are younger and better connected to their students are disrespected by older colleagues.

Meanwhile, scandal is always just a viral video away, with a student body as unintimidated by tenured authority as it is idealistic. ''Academia is a pressure cooker right now,'' Peet said, fueled in part by ''intergenerational tension'' between the ''young idealists'', the ''middle-aged folks whose idealism has been tempered'' and the ''older folks who at one time considered themselves to be trailblazers.

Oh was the only actress Peet imagined who could embrace all this mishegoss with empathy and hilarity. Who else, she asked, could both ''do a pratfall and also pass as someone with a Ph.D. in literature? ''

Laughing as campus culture wars rage : ''The Chair'' deftly satirizes academia, but the show is also a hilarious rom-com.

'The Chair,' a sharp and often hilarious satire of contemporary academia disguised as a rom-com.

Created by Peet with Annie Wyman, a screenwriter with a Ph.D in English literature from Harvard, the show stars Sandra Oh as Ji-Yoon Kim, the embattled new chair of a fictional university's struggling English department.

She is the first woman to head the department - and a convenient sacrifice should a head need to roll.

At the same time, Ji-Yoon must manage a complicated home life and a budding romance with her long -time colleague-turned-subordinate Bill Dobson Jay Duplass], whose glib inability to read the moment becomes the catalyst for a spiraling controversy that threatens their careers.

''She's a very modern woman,'' Oh said with a sigh. ''You know, one who is trying to balance being a mom, being a daughter, being the head of her department - and also navigating what is potentially a friendship that is budding into romance.''

''All the while poisonous darts are being thrown at her,'' she added.

''The Chair'' is a feast for English geeks, crammed with Melville trivia and Chaucerian sex jokes. But given the sensitive nature of some of the subjects it takes on - including sexism, ageism, interracial adoption, white elitism and cancel culture itself - the pressure of overseeing the show, Peet's first as showrunner, filled her with pure terror.

[Her husband, David Benioff, and his partner Dan Weiss, the creators of ''Games of Thrones,'' are executive producers as part of their overall deal with Netflix. Peet said jokingly that she was still upset that Benioff, who declined to be interviewed, didn't prepare her better for the job.

''I lost a lot of weight from pure anxiety and diarrhea,'' she added, laughing. Despite the heady subject matter, ''The Chair'' is no homework assignment. Oh and Dupass's chemistry is undeniable. And the show is very funny.

Peet's objective, she said, 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,'' she said. ''I meant to truly make an intimacy piece and workplace romantic comedy like the ones that I love.''

Yet amid the humour and the ''will they won't they'' moments, life inside the academy is fraught, belying the idyllic surface of all the ivy and stately architecture.

Given the ages of the leading cast and creators, most of whom are over 45, it might have been easy to simply skewer Gen Z campus wokeness and have the last laugh. But it was important to those interviewed that various perspectives be considered.

Duplass's character, Bill, a recently widowed and popular professor, finds himself in the vortex of those opposing currents on campus. An offensive gesture that he intended ironically is taken out of context and goes viral. Protests are organized against him. A young MAGA-type applauds him for defending ''free speech''.

''I feel like Amanda put me in the deepest, darkest hole she could find and said 'All right, bud, good luck,' '' said Duplass, 48, who was also a creative consultant for the show. ''See if you can climb out of this.' ''

In an early episode, Bill believes he can rely on his charm and intellectual talents to calm a gathering of angry students halfway through his painfully inadequate non-apology, he realizes that he is so out of his depth, it almost takes his breath away.

''That's my biggest beat change in the whole season,'' Duplass said. It is the moment when his character realizes that ''the patriarchy is ending right here and right now. The privileges I have held up until this moment are over.''

Yet in Peet's world, no one is safe and there are no heroes.

''She did not hold back on making fun of anyone,'' Duplass continued. ''The professors and the kids are all the smartest people in the land, and they're all [expletive] idiots.''

The World Students Society thanks author Nicole Sperling.


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