The Paper Chase

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The TV show The Paper Chase was a one-hour drama series directed by James Bridges. It aired in the 19781979 season on the CBS television network. The TV show was based on the 1973 movie which, in turn, had been based on the 1970 novel written by John Jay Osborn, a 1970 graduate of Harvard Law School. The book tells the story of James T. Hart, an idealistic first-year law student from rural Minnesota attending an unnamed New England law school, clearly reminiscent of Harvard, and his experiences with Charles W. Kingsfield, Jr., the brilliant, demanding professor of contract law whom he both idolizes and finds intimidating.

Also prominently featured were the members of Hart's study group, consisting in the first season of Franklin Ford III, Thomas Craig Anderson, Willis Bell, and Elizabeth Logan (the characters of Ford, Anderson, and Bell had all also appeared in Osborn's novel and the theatrical motion picture; Logan was added to the TV series and became the de facto female lead, since the main female character of the novel and movie was Kingsfield's daughter, Susan Field, who appeared in only one episode of the series). Hart was also seen frequently at his part-time job at Ernie's, a tavern near the campus.

John Houseman reprised his Academy Award-winning movie role as Kingsfied, and James Stephens played Hart. Canceled 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. During the run of the Showtime episodes, Hart worked on, and later became editor of, his university's Law Review. At the end of three seasons on Showtime, Hart finally graduated law school.


Professor Kingsfield (John Houseman, in the opening credits of each first-season episode): The study of law is something new and unfamiliar to most of you -- unlike any other schooling you've ever known before. 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.

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