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More than 25 years after debuting on Showtime, these episodes continue to engage and impress.
The original Paper Chase TV series was dropped by CBS after one season, but picked up and rebroadcast on PBS and then Showtime. This set picks up where the original, thrice-aired season left off.
Since the cable channel had fewer fetters than network TV (no commercial breaks, more freedom from censors), the writers were able to stretch the scripts -- and the cast -- in an even more satisfying way. Even the theme music improved; Seals and Crofts were replaced by a suitable chamber ensemble.
Although the second season carried on without a couple of characters from the first, they are not missed. (What law school doesn't have dropouts?) John Houseman is, of course, the backbone of the series. His relentless curmudgeon is nicely counterbalanced by James Stephens' midwestern mildness. And for those of you who are Jane Kaczmarek fans, yes, she did good work long before Malcom in the Middle.
Decades before the Sopranos, Tudors or Monk, The Paper Chase proved that superior television could originate on cable. Unlike most TV shows, which hasten the development of skulls full of mush, this series not only leaves you thinking like a lawyer, but sometimes admiring them.
As Houseman said in an interview after the show had been renewed: "It seems we are immortal." Let's hope so.
Posted July 6, 2010
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