The Paper Chase: Season 1
DVD | Box Set
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
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
Would you like to tell us about a lower price?
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
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.
This was the era when cheesy sitcoms dominated the airwaves. Dramas were cop shows like Starsky and Hutch and Columbo, "detective" series Charlie's Angels, schmaltzy family series like The Waltons, general idiocy like The Love Boat, and the beginning of the prime-time soap era with Dallas. Some of those had their merits, but the Paper Chase was an oasis in television's "vast wasteland".
The first season is the story of five first year law students at an unnamed law school that was pretty clearly supposed to be Hah-vahd... errrr.... Harvard Law, focusing on the idealistic James Hart, played by James Stephens.
The real star of the show, though, was John Houseman, absolutely brilliant as the intimidating contracts professor, and general deity of The Law (capitalization intentional -- I am certain you can hear the capitals when he says it) Charles W. Kingsfield.
The stories are all compelling, the characters well-written and likable. Even Kingsfield is given a human side, albeit one he rarely if ever displays to his students.
Now, there is a very definite "seventies" feel to the whole thing. The clothing and hairstyles obviously are from that era. A number of the episodes have "very special episode" written all over them, but even then, they're well done.
Since this was from the era when the idea of storylines spanning multiple episodes was pretty much unknown, there's a lack of continuity that will seem a little odd to fans of modern television. For instance, one character develops a gambling problem in one episode. Forty five or so minutes later, its resolved. It gets brief mentions in one or two later episodes, but isn't addressed further. A modern series would probably take several episodes to cover that -- he'd take up playing poker in one episode, wind a few hands in another, start losing later, get into debt even later, etc.
While Shout Factory deserves enormous kudos for releasing such a fine series on DVD, the reproduction of it is weak. They certainly don't have the sharpness expected from a DVD (especially not if you've been spoiled by Blu-Ray). I realize that the masters may not have been in the best of shape, but don't expect this to look as stunning as your Blu-Ray copies of Lost, for instance.
And then there's the ungodly painful Seals and Croft theme song that gives Seventies light rock a (very very) bad name, but that's what fast forward buttons were invented for. (Thankfully, Showtime ditched that for their episodes, replacing with a classical piece -- Bach, I think.)
While the movie The Paper Chase was more of a 60's parable on the absurdities of the chase after the ephemeral materialistic goals of society, the series is much more about the human stories behind the students, behind the discipline of studying the law, a much more late 70's view point or even a new century point of view.
The series follows James Hart, an idealistic student of the law and his study group through the rigors of an unnamed but prestigious east coast law school, where Hart's nemesis is contracts law Professor Kingsfield. The stories examine aspects of life through the prism of contracts law. The series not only presented dramas but all the elements of life love stories such as when Hart falls in love with Logan. There are humorous episodes such as when Bell decides that Kingsfield is picking on him because of a goofy picture on the seating chart and enlists Hart to help him change the picture and they end up trapped for a weekend in Kingsfield's closet. There's a look at what it's like to be a law student, such as the moot court episode, and issue oriented episodes that present both sides of the issue.
The casting is superb, John Houseman seems to have been born to play Kingsfield, the dignified, unbending law Professor. It's hard to imagine that Houseman had once been a firebrand actor and colleague of Orson Welles. James Stephens perfectly embodies the idealistic eagerness of Hart, Tom Fitzsimmons as Ford, the legacy student with a family tradition to uphold, Robert Ginty (who would later go on to the TV series Baa Baa Black Sheep) as Hart's friend, James Keane as Bell the goofy underdog who everybody underestimates. Keane would later be seen in a lot of movies in the 80's usually as a cop. Francine Tacker as Elizabeth Logan feminist student and occasional love interest to Hart, and Jonathon Segal as Brooks the married student who is on the verge of flunking out and unfortunately Segal's character mirrors the character's place in the show a little too closely and is given short shrift in the series except for the episode, An Act of Desperation. And like a lot of TV series you can find actors in bit parts who go on to bigger things, such as Marilou Henner as a waitress in the pilot episode in a role that probably would have been bigger in the series had she not gone to make Grease, Kim Cattrall shows up pre-Porky's and, of course, Sex In The City.
There aren't any bonus features which was initially a little disappointing but as I watched the episodes the overall quality of the show more than makes up for a making of featurette.
The Paper Chase has always been a quality show produced by James L Brooks and a few of the episodes written by the novel's author John Jay Osborn Jr, it received the fate of a lot of quality shows that have been on TV, cancellation. The show was revived by PBS and future seasons found their way on to the air. So whether you're looking to rediscover an old friend, or make a new one, the first season of The Paper Chase is a good start.
To anyone considering the purchase of this set, I would say it is worth it just to watch John Houseman perform. He is mesmerizing and worth the cost of the set. Consider everything else a bonus.