A piece from The Ringer about “The Chair” states the show is not based on a true story, but there is truth in the show’s exaggerations about the inner workings of a small college’s English department. The Ringer explains that Wyman, who has a Ph.D. in English from Harvard, and Peet intentionally set out to make a show full of authenticity and that is “rooted in the concerns of real-life academia.”
“The Chair” creators wanted to make sure the show was both timely and covered all sides of an issue. For example, when Bill offhandedly Nazi salutes during a lecture, reactions vary wildly. Bill refuses to apologize, while students insist that the once-adored professor owns his behavior. The differing reactions reflect the varying ages of those working in the show’s writers’ room. According to Peet, “It was really important to me to have that intergenerational tension. So it was really great to have these different age groups in the room.”
Wyman added to this, telling The Ringer, “It came about through a certain amount of both agreement that these stories need to be explored and disagreement about their final disastrous or not-so-disastrous effects on society.”
Another major storyline with ties to real-life issues focuses on Yaz McKay (Nana Mensah), a popular and brilliant Black professor. Throughout the season, Yaz struggles to get tenure due to the prejudices of an older faculty member. The Ringer reminds readers that this storyline echoes actual denials of tenure for Black academics like Cornel West (via The Harvard Crimson) and Lorgia García Peña (via The New Yorker).
Though it’s not based on a true story, there’s no denying “The Chair” is outrageously entertaining. The dramedy is currently streaming on Netflix.