Available for a few days on Netflix, Director marks the first collaboration between Sandra Oh and the streaming platform. We saw a few episodes and we tell you what it’s worth …
What is it about ?
Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim is heading the English Department at the prestigious American University of Pembroke. The first woman to hold this position and a person of color (a rare occurrence among the faculty of this university), Ji-Yoon faces several new challenges.
Who is it with?
Darling of Grey’s Anatomy fans, Sandra Oh has had a flawless journey since leaving the series in 2013. While waiting for season 4 of the excellent Killing Eve, we find her headlining the satirical series The Chair / Director. She notably gives the answer to Jay Duplass (screenwriter, actor, director and brother of Mark) that we saw in Search Party and Transparent. Bob Balaban will also be recognized as an old-time English teacher as well as the hilarious Holland Taylor (My Uncle Charlie).
Well worth a look ?
Netflix has remained very discreet in France on the launch of Director, despite the sympathy of Sandra Oh. It must be said that this new series created by actress Amanda Peet (Togetherness, The Good Wife) raises very American-American issues by plunging us into the heart of an English department in decline: the courses and the teachers are aging , registrations are at their lowest and our heroine is commissioned by the dean to revitalize the service, even if it means sending some people to retire.
Headmistress poses in satire and humorously plays it. When she has to chair her first meeting, Ji-Yoon Kim finds herself facing a dozen graying-haired teachers, more concerned about the drugs they should take than what is being said. But the series implicitly tackles an interesting subject, that of the place of minorities within the academy. And Sandra Oh is the best ambassador for that.
The actress has often spoken in the media for denounce racism in Hollywood, while being aware of how lucky she was to receive role offers. And this is reflected in the series, especially in this scene where she criticizes the dean for the lack of diversity within the university, as much on the side of the students (87% of white students) as on the side of the professors (she is the only Asian faculty).
The character of Nana Mensah (Yaz) is also not left out. Soon titular after 10 years within the academy, it is done all the same “mansplainer“within his own class when one of his male colleagues asks him to play the assistants by distributing the copies while he is doing the class … (episode 2). These two characters must compose as a minority but also as a as women, who are continually forced to prove themselves against men.
Despite these flashes of light, the series will be criticized for not tackling the subject more in depth as a Dear White People does so well, and for sometimes putting it in the background. She also sometimes forgets the humor and satire side to paint a more human portrait of the characters: Bill and his bereavement / alcohol addiction, Ji-Yoon and his disastrous relationship with his adopted daughter … moments that unfortunately do not always fall to point named and which brings down the atmosphere.
The first season of Director is mixed: if the series has strong points (its distribution, its writing), it is still looking for the tone and the way to approach the subjects. She’s not the office comedy that some media have presented but it is hoped that she will be in season 2, if Netflix decides to give her a chance.