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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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Based on an unforgettable 1973 movie, the series focused on the lives of students struggling through law school at a prestigious university.
The series lasted only one season on CBS with 22 episodes, from 1978 to 1979, and this boxed set from Shout!Factory collects those episodes, which revolves around the students' first year of 'trial' and tribulatios.
PBS reran the series then the cable channel Showtime revived the series in 1983, where it lasted for three more seasons.
The series centered around student James T. Hart, a core cast of fellow-students, and one truly dominant force of nature in the form of a legendary law professor, Charles W. Kingsfield Jr., played beyond iconic perfection by the fabulous John Houseman.
Houseman had starred as Kingsfield in the movie version, then unbelievably reprised the role on the small screen to the delight of his fans. Sadly, Houseman died a year after the Showtime incarnation of the series ended.
Hart, played by James Stephens in the series, and by Timothy Bottoms in the movie, is a hard-working student from Minnesota whose background ill prepares him for the rough and tumble of law school.
Hart is utterly terrified and fascinated by Kingsfield, who challenges his students so vigorously that he has become a legend in his own time, and his classes are both loathed and cherished.
The professor, the undisputed authority on contract law, becomes an unwilling and unknowing mentor to Hart, who decides he will do anything he can to meet and exceed the expectations of the master legal-eagle. By the time the series ends on Showtime, Hart graduates.
While the series explores the relationship between Hart and his co-students who form a study group, it is Houseman's Kingsfield that inhabits every inch of the show, even when he is not on screen - a lasting testimony to the actor's skill.
Stephens and Bottoms have devoted fan bases who argue one actor's portrayal is the quintessential Hart. For me, Stephens brings a sensitivity and likeability that Bottoms does not. Of course, Stephens had many episodes to imbue the character with his style.
In the series, Hart's best friend, Franklin Ford III, is played by Tom Fitzsimmons, while actors Willis Bell, James Keane, and Betty Harford, (Kingsfield's secretary) round out the core cast in the first season, which aired on CBS.
The joy of the show was the great scripts which managed to combine humor, tension and incredible stress caused by constant, rigorous study, with friendship and deeper, philosophical issues brought up by the legal topics they were learning. In short, it was one of the best cancelled TV series EVER!
This boxed set includes the 22 episodes from the CBS season: The Paper Chase Pilot; Great Expectations; The Man Who Would Be King; A Day in the Life of...; Voices of Silence; Nancy; Da Da; The Seating Chart; Moot Court; Kingsfield's Daughter; The Sorcerer's Apprentice; Bell and Love; An Act of Desperation; Losing Streak; The Man in the Chair; A Matter of Honor; The Apprentice; Once More With Feeling; The Clay Footed Idol; The Tables Down at Ernie's; A Case of Détente; and Scavenger Hunt.
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.
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It struck home - and I cannot imagine anyone better able than John Housman to portray Professor...Read more