The Chair

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
The Chair TV Poster Image
Viewers learn about filmmaking in slightly edgy docuseries.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The film-production team spends time debating what's fair and responsible to show on-screen. They also intentionally pick a female filmmaker to compete with a male.

Positive Role Models & Representations

During the long production process, the audience gets to know the filmmakers and their cohorts as real people. Watching artists struggle against limitations of money and time instead of other competitors is refreshing.


One of the filmmakers is making a raunchy sex comedy; expect visual and dialogue references to sex practices, including unusual ones such as consuming vile substances.


Lots of cursing, including many four-letter words. The words are generally uttered in surprise or exasperation, however, not as insults or to intimidate others.


Real celebrities appear on-screen, and the logos of the film companies they run and the movies they've made also are shown.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Chair is a docuseries that follows two filmmakers creating competing movies from the same source script. The focus is quite firmly on the task at hand and the Herculean effort the filmmakers must make; interpersonal dramas are not played up as they are on many reality shows. Still, those on-screen are working on time and budgetary limitations and get angry and stressed. Viewers can expect cursing, including many four-letter words, and vulgar sex jokes about body parts and sexual practices. In addition, much of the screen time is taken up by people sitting on couches talking about events that have happened offscreen, which will bore younger viewers. There are many insider references to filmmaking, some of which aren't explained; those without a background in film may be confused.

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What's the story?

In docuseries THE CHAIR, two filmmakers start with the same script, the same budget, and the same shooting schedule in Pittsburgh. One, Anna Martemucci, is connected within New York indie film circles. The other, Shane Dawson, is a YouTube star with 10 million followers. With the help of production company Before the Door (best-known partner: Zachary Quinto), Martemucci and Dawson both are going to make their own visions of the script come to life. At the end of the project, two feature films will be in the can. The winning filmmaker takes home bragging rights -- and $250,000.

Is it any good?

The notion of competitive filmmaking is hardly a new one, so viewers will be forgiven if they find the concept a snooze. Project Greenlight began in 2001, after all, and it didn't exactly create impressive cultural waves. Not only that, shows such as Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge, Face Off, and Project Runway already are filling the artistic-competition niche. But the immersive spotlight on just how difficult it is to make a movie is an eyebrow-raiser. Week after week, Martemucci and Dawson struggle through scenarios that will be familiar to any indie filmmaker: The money runs out. The locations are un-gettable. Filming stuff is so ungodly expensive that it's not always possible to get the shot you want. And so on.

The Chair doesn't make filmmaking look fun to actually do (aspiring movie moguls may disagree), but it's a lot of fun to watch. It's also instructive to young film fans, who may never have thought about what goes into making the stories they love. Dawson and Martemucci run through the whole process, from polishing up the script to editing every last frame in the movie. Watching them swing from exhaustion and elation is a kick, and so is this show. Families with an interest in filmmaking, particularly those with teens with artistic aspirations, are advised to take a look.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why a show about making movies exists. What's interesting about the process of making a film? Are there other shows on TV about artistic creations? Are they like or unlike The Chair?

  • What filmmaking terms have you learned from watching The Chair? Will this increase or decrease your appreciation of the next film you see?

  • How is the audience supposed to view the respective filmmakers? Are we being set up to prefer one over the other? How can you tell?

TV details

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Themes & Topics

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