The Paper Chase (TV series)
The Paper Chase is an American drama television series based on a 1970 novel by John Jay Osborn, Jr., as well as a 1973 film based on the novel. It follows the lives of law student James T. Hart and his classmates at an unnamed law school, modeled on Harvard Law School but filmed on the University of Southern California campus (featuring its Bovard Administration Building, Doheny Library and Von KleinSmid Center) and in Stages 2 and 4 at 20th Century Fox Studios in Los Angeles.
|The Paper Chase|
|Created by||John Jay Osborn, Jr.|
|Composer(s)||Stephen Seretan (1.0, 1.1, 1.5, 1.7, 1.8, 1.15, 1.16, 1.17, 1.18, 1.19)
Charles Fox (1.2, 1.3)
Thomas Newman (1.20, 1.21)
Richard Shores (1.4, 1.6, 1.7, 1.9, 1.10, 1.11, 1.12)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||59 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Lynn Roth
Robert C. Thompson
Ernest A. Losso
|Cinematography||Gene A. Talvin|
|Editor(s)||Axel Hubert Sr.
|Running time||47-48 min.|
|Production company(s)||20th Century Fox Television|
|Original network||CBS (season 1)
Showtime (seasons 2-4)
|Original release||September 9, 1978
- April 24, 1979|
April 15, 1983 – August 9, 1986
The CBS television network aired the series in the 1978–1979 season. John Houseman reprised his movie role, and James Stephens played Hart. It was cancelled after one year; PBS subsequently rebroadcast all of the episodes. In 1983, pay-cable network Showtime brought back the show with both Houseman and Stephens, as well as some other members of the original television cast. At the end of the fourth season, Hart finally graduates from law school. The series aired in the UK on BBC Two.
James T. Hart is a law student from rural Minnesota who enters the intensely competitive environment of a law school he has chosen specifically to study with Professor Charles W. Kingsfield, the world's leading authority on contract law. Kingsfield inspires both awe and fear in his students in his unremitting determination to prepare them for the practice of law.
To cope with the heavy workload, Hart joins a study group organized by Franklin Ford III. Ford is under intense pressure to succeed. His family has produced an unbroken string of outstanding lawyers going back generations, culminating in his demanding father, the senior partner in a very prestigious Wall Street law firm. The study group includes smooth woman-chaser Thomas Craig Anderson, slob Willis Bell, idealistic activist Elizabeth Logan, and struggling Jonathan Brooks, who is married to Asheley. Of these students, Brooks left Harvard Law School after he was caught cheating.
Hart works part-time at Ernie's Tavern to help pay his way through school. In the pilot, he worked at a pizza parlor, and worked alongside a waitress who showed him the ropes, played by Marilu Henner. He would find her a supportive friend who helped him with mistakes and the pressure of dealing with the fast pace of taking care of customers' orders.
Hart survives the first year with flying colors and joins the staff of the law school's Law Review (an honor reserved for the top students), under the leadership of Gerald Golden. He becomes romantically involved with a first-year law student, Connie Lehman (Jane Kaczmarek), only to lose her when she wins a Rhodes Scholarship and goes to Oxford University. Later, he repeatedly clashes with Law Review rival Rita Harriman, though he admits to Ford that he is perversely attracted to her.
Bell, working as a dorm adviser, is smitten with one of his charges, Laura Kiernan, but she just wants to be friends.
It is now the final year for Hart at the law school. In the 2-hour series finale, Hart finally graduates, and has to decide between taking a Federal Second Circuit Court clerkship or an offered position in a private firm. His decision is further complicated when he is asked to apply for the Thompson Endowment for Constitutional Law faculty position at his school. He decides to interview for the faculty position but is disappointed to discover his appointment is adamantly opposed by Professor Kingsfield. Though Kingsfield admits Hart is an exceptional student, and will most probably be an outstanding lawyer, Kingsfield explains to the faculty hiring committee that Hart has "no experience whatsoever" and has "no resources on which to draw as a teacher." When Hart finds out he didn't get the faculty position, he is upset but comes to terms with the outcome. As Hart gives the commencement speech, he directly addresses Professor Kingsfield and expresses his admiration and affection for the professor, thus bringing the series to a close.
|Professor Charles W. Kingsfield, Jr.||John Houseman|
|James T. Hart||James Stephens|
|Franklin Ford III||Tom Fitzsimmons|
|Willis Bell||James Keane|
|Elizabeth Logan||Francine Tacker|
|Thomas Craig Anderson||Robert Ginty|
|Jonathan Brooks||Jonathan Segal|
|Mrs. Nottingham, Kingsfield's secretary||Betty Harford|
|Connie Lehman||Jane Kaczmarek|
|Gerald Golden, president of Harvard Law Review||Michael Tucci|
|Laura Kiernan||Andra Millian|
|Vivian Conway||Penny Johnson|
|Rita Harriman||Clare Kirkconnell|
In the first year, the theme song was "The First Years", written by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox, and performed by Seals and Crofts. In the pilot, the opening used an instrumental version, and the ending used a different vocal version. Starting in the second year, a classical instrumental piece replaced it.
In the first year, the program opens with Professor Kingsfield, in class, saying, "The study of law is something new and unfamiliar to most of you--unlike any other schooling you have ever known before." After the theme song, he continues: "You teach yourselves the law but I train your minds. You come in here with a skull full of mush, and, if you survive, you leave thinking like a lawyer."
Awards and nominationsEdit
- 1985: Best Dramatic Series
- 1987: Best Dramatic Series
|DVD name||Ep#||Release date|
|Season One||22||April 7, 2009|
|Season Two||19||December 15, 2009|
|Season Three||12||September 26, 2017|
|Season Four||6||January 23, 2018|
In the late 1980s, The Family Channel rebroadcast the entire series in a late-night time slot, at midnight Eastern Time. The series was later seen in the early 1990s on A&E, and in the early 2000s on GoodLife Television.
- The Paper Chase (1978-1986): Filming Locations, Internet Movie Database
- The Paper Chase, Season 2, Episode 8: "Mrs. Hart" (YouTube)
- 'The Paper Chase - At Last!! Shout! Factory Announces DVDs for 'Season 3' James Stephens and John Houseman star in this next-to-last season'
- The Paper Chase - 'Season 4: The Final Season' is on the Docket for DVD Coming from Shout! Factory in late January