The Paper Chase: Season 1
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The Paper Chase was a one hour dramatic series premiering on CBS in 1978 that won great critical praise, garnering the Emmy for Outstanding New Series. Based on the movie and novel, rural Minnesotan James T. Hart (James Stephens) is unprepared for the life of a first year law student at an Ivy League law school. In his first class, he elicits the ire of revered and feared contracts professor Charles W. Kingsfield(played by the brilliant John Houseman reprising his Academy Award winning movie role). But Hart is committed. And smart. And so is The Paper Chase. In order to keep up with the never-ending workload, Hart joins a study group for support. Each episode explores the trials and tribulations, the successes and failures, the competition and camaraderie that each student faces.
The chase is finally over for this shining example of a television series that didn't treat its viewers as if they had skulls full of mush. Based on the acclaimed 1973 film that was adapted from John Jay Osborn, Jr.'s novel, this 1978 series is literally old school. It presents education in general and the study of law in particular as noble pursuits. The students for whom we develop a rooting interest are the best and the brightest, and in Professor Charles Kingsfield we have an addition to the pantheon of great movie/TV teachers. James Stephens anchors the series as Hart, an idealistic first-year law student. In the Grade-A pilot episode, as in the film, he gets on the wrong side of the intimidating Kingsfield, his role model and inspiration, on the first day of class. How Hart gets back in his good graces sets the stage for episodes in which classroom drama proves to be just as compelling as the courtroom variety. Hart's study-group classmates include third generation lawyer Ford (Tom Fitzsimmons), genius Anderson (Robert Ginty), activist Logan (Francine Tacker), newly-married Brooks (Jonathan Sagall), and slob Bell (James Keane). The Paper Chase got the prestige treatment. James Brooks, who directed the feature film, developed the series for television, Osborn wrote several of the episodes, and the venerable John Houseman recreated his Oscar-winning role as Kingsfield, a TV first. While Kingsfield was a monolithic character in the film, he is more accessible in the series. There is much more interaction between him and the idolizing Hart. Familiar faces in Season One include Marilu Henner as a sympathetic waitress in the pilot episode, Don Porter (Gidget) as Ford's demanding father in "The Man Who Would Be King," Robert Reed as a professor who sexually harasses Logan in "Once More with Feeling," and Kim Cattrall as a struggling law student's wife in "Da Da." The Paper Chase was a critics' darling, but just as bad grades could sink Kingsfield's students, so did bad ratings result in The Paper Chase's cancellation after one year. Following reruns on PBS, the Showtime network picked up the series for three more CableAce Award-winning seasons. The Paper Chase was no doubt to aspiring lawyers what All the President's Men was to fledgling investigative reporters. Rarely syndicated, the series is just as gripping as when it first aired, its intensity and intelligence are undimmed. --Donald Liebenson
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Top customer reviews
It is nice to be able to watch this series again. I grow up watching this with my father, which by the way, was a criminal lawyer and a judge. The series was translated and transmitted in spanish language in my native Country and I really found the series very interesting and entertained. Very different to what we have now which is full of sex and violence.
If you never had the chance to watch this series, or you are younger than me ;-) , this series is about law school students and all the adventures they have to live due the very high intensity of their classes and teachers, specially Professor Kingsfield, a role that is played by John Houseman. Kingsfield and Hart, one of his most dedicated law students, are the most interesting roles in the series, in my opinion.
There is no action, sex or complicated story lines here. So if you are more into suspense or action kind of series, you won't like this one. But if you want to remember your university days or somehow miss that, or if you are studying to become a lawyer, you may love this series and even laugh at times.
Now, the reason for my 3 start rating is because the video and audio quality. I was under the wrong assumption that this was remastered and edited; instead, the episodes are not Full HD , not even good enough for modern televisions. Maybe I am asking too much, but I've found myself watching better 70 and 80s video clips on YouTube and they are free.
Overall, good and nostalgic T.V. series. I can live with the poor video and quality content but I was expecting a better product with some type of "post-production" or digital editing, in order to compensate for 30+ years age that the series already has.
It struck home - and I cannot imagine anyone better able than John Housman to portray Professor Kingsfield.
These folks have a tougher life than other groups (like the crew of Star Trek) but they do hang into it well.
Based on the novel by John Jay Osborn Jr. The Paper Chase and the motion picture of the book The Paper Chase, the television series far surpasses the quality of its predecessors. It reminds me in some ways of "M*A*S*H," the series, which was far and away better than its original book and movie. Unfortunately, unlike "M*A*S*H," once Showtime finished "The Paper Chase" more than 20 years ago, it has been rarely seen since. It is so well written, so well acted, so compelling and dramatic, that it deserves a chance to find a new audience on DVD.
If you watched it in its day and liked it, please purchase a copy and show the distributor (Shout Factory) that there is a market for the rest of the series. Even if you did not see it when it first aired, but you appreciate intelligent, thought-provoking drama, give it a try and spread the word. You don't have to be a lawyer or law student to identify with the characters and the daily events in which they find themselves. It's a story and television series for all of us.