Case Number 17910: Small Claims Court


Shout! Factory // 1983 // 975 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // December 15th, 2009

The Charge

"We as lawyers and judges are the ones, for the convenience and protection of society, who decide what is right and what is wrong."

The Case

What is most interesting about this second season of The Paper Chase is that the show moved from broadcast giant CBS to cable premium channel Showtime, becoming the first cable exclusive series paving the way for shows like The Sopranos, Sex and the City, and Dexter. The first debut year ran from 1978-79, and this resurrection did not take place until 1983. Part of the reason Showtime decided to bring it all back was that PBS aired repeats of the show which garnered high ratings. For the elderly professor played by John Houseman this time lapse did not mean much, but James Stephens in the role of his student certainly lost more hair and aged quite a bit. Yet the show had a lot to say, and the nineteen episodes found here are a wonderful extension of the initial run. The second year pretty much picks up exactly where you would guess, with the familiar characters returning for their next round of law school. New students come in to take John Houseman's class including Jane Kaczmarek of Malcolm in the Middle fame.

Shout! Factory does not do much more than provide the episodes and nothing else. We do get six discs housed in three slim line cases with nice episode summaries and original air dates on the back. The image is in a word...terrible, and at times it even looks worse than that. You can't blame the DVD authoring, because this was a low budget production taped on elements that have degraded quite a bit over the years. There are even four episodes where the original Showtime episodes could not be found, and the producers had to use edited masters. The sound is mono and tinny, often a little muddy. The Paper Chase: Season Two isn't going to impress anybody with its technical merits.

It was nice to see The Paper Chase continue on Showtime, because the story felt like it could continue past the first year and chronicle the rest of law school. CBS wasn't the place to do that, but cable gave the show a certain freedom to tackle any topic it wanted to without network interference. John Houseman remained the main reason to tune in as head professor Charles W. Kingsfield, Jr. with James Stephens giving the show a lot of heart as the appropriately named James T. Hart. It was a quiet, intellectual show that should intrigue anybody curious about law and Harvard law school. The Paper Chase: Season Two may not be a technical marvel on DVD with regards to transfers or extras, but it is nice to see this gentle show finally available to fans.

The Verdict

Not guilty of being a pointless nostalgia trip. John Houseman still inspires students to ask more of themselves than they think is possible.

Review content copyright © 2009 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile
Studio: Shout! Factory
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 975 Minutes
Release Year: 1983
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb