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Film and TV

The Chair

Sandra Oh in The Chair

The Chair is Netflix’s “best drama in years”, says Sophie Gilbert in The Atlantic. Just three hours long, the “near-perfect” comedy drama skewers the subject of free speech in academia without “descending into tweed-clutching”. It’s set in Pembroke College, a fictional “lower-tier Ivy” that’s haemorrhaging enrolments because its tenured professors, largely over 70, can’t connect with Gen Z. One roguish prof (Jay Duplass) satirically performs a Hitler salute during a packed lecture while considering “absurdism’s power against fascism”. It’s a hoot.

“The stakes could hardly be lower,” says Ed Cumming in The Independent. Who will get tenure? Who will be cancelled? “Will the teaching of Chaucer survive the 21st century”? Happily, The Chair “outstrips its expected grades” and avoids the obvious “young vs old” traps. These veterans might be fusty, but they are still wily experts. Sandra Oh (Killing Eve) stars as “flustered but brilliant” academic Dr Ji-Yoon Kim. It’s not exactly “teacher turns to crystal meth”, or “drug kingpins in Baltimore”, or even “1950s advertising agency”, but it’s still best in class.

The Chair is on Netflix. Watch the trailer here.

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Ruby Wax with Pamela Anderson

When Ruby Wax Met…

This show makes for “jaw-dropping, fascinating TV”, says Rebecca Nicholson in The Guardian. In the early 1990s Ruby Wax spent time with A-list stars such as Tom Hanks and OJ Simpson. Now a comedian, writer and mental health campaigner, she adds her thoughts on her greatest hits. Donald Trump? Wax’s “worst nightmare” – he reminded her of her disapproving father. Carrie Fisher and Goldie Hawn? She loved them because “she felt liked by the popular girls who had shunned her at school”.

“All good therapy for Wax, I’m sure,” says Anita Singh in The Daily Telegraph. But that’s not why viewers were here. We wanted to see the interviews again, not hear the presenter dissecting her technique. Hanks was a delight, gamely getting in on the joke. Fisher was whipsmart, Simpson grimly fascinating. And for all her angst about it, Wax’s encounter with Trump made for great television (and revealed a sweet side to Melania). Trump called Wax “the world’s most obnoxious reporter”. He was “probably right”. No wonder the interviews sizzle.

When Ruby Wax Met… is on BBC2 and iPlayer. Watch a clip here.

The 1960s French thriller that’s wowing New York

Alain Delon and Romy Schneider in La Piscine. Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty Images

Thrill-deprived New Yorkers have been flocking to screenings of La Piscine, a French film that premiered in 1969. “Even the year was suggestive,” says Ed Potton in The Times. Jacques Deray’s “shamelessly erotic” sleeper hit – remade in 2016 as A Bigger Splash – is so popular, an art house Manhattan cinema has run it for 14 weeks straight. St Tropez summers. Turquoise pools. Partner-swapping. Alain Delon. A “slightly sleepy” Jane Birkin. Encore.

The big-city buzz “can’t disguise the fact that La Piscine itself is an absolute dirge”, says Kevin Maher in the same paper. The eroticism is “stilted” and its four central characters are “navel-gazing and odious twits”. I once mentioned the film to Birkin “and she cringed”.

La Piscine is available on DVD.