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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Paper Chase - the TV Series

Thanks to Dan and the Prawfs gang for inviting me to visit at Prawfs.   I teach constitutional law and legal history at UC Davis.   I hope to post on substantive legal matters, but that's proving a bit difficult in the middle of exam season, so let me begin with something a bit lighter. 

Like many law professors, I'm a huge fan of the movie, "The Paper Chase."  But I am too young to have seen the follow-up television series that aired in the mid-1970s.  People who remember it tell me that the series was even better than the movie in dramatizing law school classrooms.  As far as I can tell the TV series has never been released on DVD.   Does anyone know if copies are available anywhere - maybe in a law school library or a television archive?  I suspect there would be a large audience for a re-release.  And do any of our older more seasoned readers have thoughts on how the TV series compared with the movie?

Posted by Carlton Larson on May 6, 2008 at 02:07 PM in Culture | Permalink


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I ordered most seasons of the TV show on DVD three or four years ago. I am happy to share the contact information of the seller if you contact me directly. I know at least two contracts profs who also ordered from this seller and then used some clips from the show in their classes. (Almost all the law school scenes as well as the "life" scenes revolve around contract law.)

Posted by: Thaddeus Pope | May 7, 2008 7:44:51 PM

The show originally aired on CBS in the late 70s, but I didn't start watching it until I was in law school in the mid-80s, when Showtime picked it up and got it going again. We loved it because the characters were going through all the same agonies that we were--and engaging in the same activities--from study groups, to law review, to finding jobs after graduation. John Houseman reprised his role as Professor Kingsfield, though he was more a kindly curmudgeon on the tv show than his movie portrayal of the character.
The tv series branched out quite a bit from the movie and it lost the character who was supposed to be Kingsfield's daughter. The main character, James Hart, was played by James Stephens (who lost a lot of his hair between the original CBS series and the "second year" on Showtime). Tom Fitzsimmons played Hart's aristocratic roomie, Franklin Ford.

Posted by: Coleen Barger | May 6, 2008 7:02:48 PM

Today I found several DVD (probably bootleg) copies of the television show through a google search for "paper chase television dvd" - they seem to run between $45 and $90.

Posted by: Dan Filler | May 6, 2008 5:07:52 PM

The UCLA film and television archive appears to have it. Seeing as how you're at Davis, this sounds like a nice spring break trip down to L.A. Or maybe a summer "research trip". '70's and '80's law-school television is "legal history", isn't it?

Posted by: Jason W. | May 6, 2008 3:06:33 PM

You might check out the details (including interesting trivia) about this show at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077058/. It appears that the CBS show aired on Showtime in the early 1980's, so that might be another way to track it down. Best, Kelly

Posted by: Kelly Anders | May 6, 2008 2:15:17 PM

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