Created by John Jay Osborn, Jr.
Country of origin United States
First episode date 9 September 1978
Adapted from The Paper Chase
Starring (See article)
Original language(s) English
Final episode date 9 August 1986
|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)|
Cast John Houseman, James Stephens, Robert Ginty, James Keane, Tom Fitzsimmons
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 Harvard Law School.
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.
James T. Hart is a law student from rural Minnesota who enters the intensely competitive environment of Harvard Law School. He has chosen Harvard 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 Harvard Law Review (an honor reserved for the top students), under the leadership of Gerald Golden. He becomes seriously involved with a new law student, Connie Lehman (Jane Kaczmarek), only to lose her. 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.
Hart, now in his third year, is joined by two new students: Franklin Ford's younger brother Tom (Peter Nelson) and former housewife Rose Samuels (Lainie Kazan).
It is now the final year for Hart at Harvard. In the 2-hour series finale, Hart finally graduates from Harvard, 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 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.
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 piano instrumental tune replaced it.
Awards and nominations
Shout! Factory has released the first two seasons on DVD in Region 1.
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.