The White Shadow

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This article is about the television series. For the 1923 film, see The White Shadow (film).
The White Shadow
The White Shadow dvd.jpg
DVD cover
Genre Drama, Basketball, School
Created by Bruce Paltrow
Written by David Assael
Steven Bochco
Joshua Brand
Tom Chehak
John Falsey
Steve Kline
Gary Kott
John Masius
Bruce Paltrow
Marc Rubin
Directed by Thomas Carter
Jackie Cooper
Lawrence Levy
Victor Lobl
Marc Norman
Bruce Paltrow
Mark Tinker
Virgil W. Vogel
Starring Ken Howard
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 54
Executive producer(s) Bruce Paltrow
Producer(s) Mark Tinker
Running time 60 mins.
Production company(s) Company Four
MTM Enterprises
Distributor 20th Television
Original channel CBS
Original run November 27, 1978  – March 16, 1981

The White Shadow is an American drama television series that ran on the CBS network from November 27, 1978 to March 16, 1981.


Thematically similar to Welcome Back, Kotter, but more dramatic than comedic, The White Shadow starred Ken Howard as Ken Reeves, a white professional basketball player who retires from the Chicago Bulls of the NBA after a severe knee injury. Upon his retirement, Reeves takes a job as a basketball coach at Carver High School, a mostly black and Hispanic urban high school in South Central Los Angeles. Carver's principal is former college classmate Jim Willis (Jason Bernard in the pilot, and Ed Bernard for seasons 1 and 2). Sybil Buchanan, played by Joan Pringle, is the vice principal who was against Reeves' hiring and clashed with Reeves in the areas of discipline and education on more than a few occasions. In season 3, Willis is promoted to a position with the Oakland Board of Education and Buchanan becomes principal of Carver.

According to the storyline, Reeves and Willis were roommates at Boston College. Reeves played college basketball and went on to be drafted into the NBA and played mostly with the Chicago Bulls.

The show was produced by Bruce Paltrow for MTM Enterprises. On November 8, 2005, the series' first season was released on DVD, with the second season following on March 7, 2006.

The White Shadow was the first ensemble drama on prime-time television with a predominantly African-American cast. With 54 episodes, it is the third-longest running drama with a predominantly African-American cast in the history of American prime-time television. Only Soul Food and The Wire have had more episodes.

The show's title is derived from a comment by Thorpe in response to a statement by Reeves in the final scene of the pilot episode. Reeves told the members of the team that he would support them and be right behind them, every step of the way, to which Thorpe replied, "Yeah. Like a white shadow."

In October 2011, ESPN Classic began reairing all 54 episodes of The White Shadow. Reruns aired on Nick at Nite and TV Land in the 1990s with other MTM Enterprises series.

Main cast[edit]

Episode list[edit]

Season 1 (1978–1979)[edit]

15 episodes:

Title Airdate Episode Summary
1 "Pilot" 1978-Nov-27 After realizing his NBA career is over, Ken Reeves is offered a job as basketball coach at Carver High School by his old Boston College teammate, principal Jim Willis.
2 "Here's Mud in Your Eye" 1978-Dec-04 Curtis Jackson has an alcohol problem, and Coach Reeves and the team must intervene to get him help.
3 "The Offer" 1978-Dec-11 A sexy TV news reporter tries to lure Reeves into quitting at Carver and going into sportscasting.
4 "Bonus Baby" 1978-Dec-25 Coolidge is tempted by an agent to sign a pro contract, risking his eligibility for college ball.
5 "Pregnant Pause" 1979-Jan-01 Reese's college plans are derailed by a cheerleader girlfriend who claims to be pregnant, but Reeves thinks otherwise after seeing she has signed up for next year's squad.
6 "Wanna Bet?" 1979-Jan-08 Reeves tries to talk a street basketball hustler named Bobby Magum into playing for him at Carver. Michael Warren guest stars.
7 "That Old Gang of Mine" 1979-Jan-15 After Reeves kicks Gomez off the team for poor grades, Gomez turns to his old street gang, Los Aztecas, for support.
8 "Just One of the Boys" 1979-Jan-27 Reeves deals with a transfer student named Raymond Collins, who left his prior school to escape rumors of being a homosexual.
9 "Airball" 1979-Feb-03 Reeves tries to fly the team to an out-of-town tournament, and the results aren't what he bargained for.
10 "We're in the Money" 1979-Feb-10 Reeves takes the team to Las Vegas for a tournament with disastrous results.
11 "Spare the Rod" 1979-Feb-17 Reeves deals with Lucius Robinson, a student with a past history of teacher violence.
12 "The Great White Dope" 1979-Feb-24 Salami wants to be a professional boxer, but his father is dead-set against it.
13 "Mainstream" 1979-Mar-05 Reeves must deal with an autistic student who's been assigned to the team as part of the mainstreaming program.
14 "Little Orphan Abner" 1979-Mar-26 Goldstein, the "outcast" of the Carver team, tries to turn to his teammates for support after his Jewish grandfather falls ill.
15 "LeGrand Finale" 1979-Apr-09 The team wants to form a singing group, but elect not to include Thorpe, who's developed a dating interest in a white girl with an unsavory reputation.

Season 2 (1979–1980)[edit]

24 episodes:

Title Airdate Episode Summary
16 "On the Line" 1979-Sep-17 A writer for Carver's school newspaper believes Jackson is involved with a sports bookie and shaving points at games.
17 "Albert Hodges" 1979-Sep-24 A former student, back at Carver after an 18-month prison sentence, gets kicked off the basketball team and claims Reeves is a racist.
18 "The Cross-Town Hustle" 1979-Oct-01 A coach from a rival high school tries to convince Reese to transfer.
19 "Sudden Death" 1979-Oct-08 Reeves takes on a young freshman player and works him hard in practice with tragic results.
20 "A Silent Cheer" 1979-Oct-15 Reeves gives a talented player who is deaf a shot on the Carver team.
21 "No Place Like Home" 1979-Oct-29 Coolidge and Reeves become temporary roommates when Coolidge's apartment building where his family lives is destroyed by a fire.
22 "Globetrotters" 1979-Nov-05 The team's winning streak has gone to their heads, as evidenced by their showboating and cocky attitudes on and off the court. Reeves decides the team needs a full serving of humble pie when he asks a group of men to play his team in a scrimmage, who then embarrass the team with their tricks. After halftime, these men reveal they are the Harlem Globetrotters.
23 "Me?" 1979-Nov-12 Thorpe finds out he has venereal disease, and that he has infected Coolidge's girlfriend with it as well.
24 "Needle" 1979-Nov-26 Hayward's young cousin runs afoul with a drug dealer and dies from an overdose. Reeves must prevent Hayward from seeking revenge.
25 "Sliding By" 1979-Dec-03 A "can't miss" college basketball prospect transfers to Carver to finish high school, but Reeves finds out he may not be what he seems.
26 "Delores, of Course" 1979-Dec-18 Jackson reunites with his old girlfriend, unaware of her new line of work: prostitution.
27 "A Christmas Present" 1979-Dec-25 Sybil is pregnant and at odds with her husband, while Reeves is left with no place to go for Christmas.
28 "Feeling No Pain" 1980-Jan-01 Salami is prescribed amphetamines for a sprained knee, and the team cons him into sharing them before a game.
29 "Artist" 1980-Jan-08 An art teacher believes Thorpe has potential as an artist, but Thorpe has sights on the NBA.
30 "Salami's Affair" 1980-Jan-15 A young female teacher develops an attraction to Salami.
31 "Links" 1980-Jan-22 Reeves takes Salami, Thorpe, and Coolidge to an exclusive country club for a round of golf with hilarious results.
32 "The Stripper" 1980-Jan-29 Reeves is unaware that the teacher he is dating moonlights as a stripper.
33 "Gonna Fly Now" 1980-Feb-05 A drug dealer infiltrates Carver's campus.
34 "Out at Home" 1980-Feb-19 Reeves is named Carver's new athletic director, but the longtime baseball coach isn't happy about it.
35 "The Russians Are Coming" 1980-Feb-26 A touring team of Russian players comes to Carver, and one wants to defect with Hayward's help.
36 "The Hitter" 1980-Mar-04 Gomez is being physically abused by his father, but won't admit it.
37 "The Death of Me Yet?" 1980-Mar-11 Carver celebrates advancing to the city championship, but the party turns tragic.
38 "Coolidge Goes Hollywood" 1980-Mar-18 Coolidge is offered a television acting role.
39 "A Few Good Men" 1980-Apr-04 Graduation for some of the players brings angst over the future, especially for Reese and Goldstein.

Season 3 (1980–1981)[edit]

15 episodes:

Title Airdate Episode Summary
40 "Reunion (Part 1)" 1980-Oct-16 Reeves returns to New York City (Bayside Queens) for his high-school reunion.
41 "Reunion (Part 2)" 1980-Oct-23 Reeves finds out his father is dying and stays in Queens a while longer, then returns to Carver.
42 "Georgia on My Mind" 1980-Oct-30 Coolidge has been overwhelmed by school, in particular struggling with science class, so he figures he should forget academics and parlay his basketball abilities into trying out for the Harlem Globetrotters. He rethinks his strategy after getting buffaloed at tryouts and the Globetrotters encourage Coolidge to finish the science course when they reveal they all are college graduates.
43 "If Your Number's Up, Get It Down" 1980-Dec-16 Coolidge, Salami, Vitaglia, and Thorpe wreck the new driver's ed car and have to raise money for a mobile health-care unit as punishment.
44 "Christmas Story" 1980-Dec-23 The team helps run a basketball clinic at a Catholic school. Thorpe bonds with one of the kids, and Reeves is interested in dating the coach, unaware she's a nun.
45 "No Blood, No Foul" 1980-Dec-30 Salami faces jail time for breaking an opposing player's jaw during an on-court brawl.
46 "The Vanity Fare" 1981-Jan-06 The team attempts to enter a singing contest.
47 "Mister Hero" 1981-Jan-13 While out joyriding in a stolen car, Stone rescues an elderly lady from a car fire and is lauded as a hero until the truth is found out.
48 "B.M.O.C." 1981-Feb-02 Coolidge begins to feel conscious about his size and height. NBA great Bill Russell guest stars.
49 "Trial and Error" 1981-Feb-09 Falahey's girlfriend thinks she's pregnant, while Reeves is called for jury duty.
50 "Car Repo" 1981-Feb-16 Salami and Vitaglia take a part-time job repossessing cars, and the ungodly hours take their toll.
51 "Psyched Out" 1981-Feb-23 A teacher with a past history of nervous breakdowns is tormented by a psychotic student.
52 "Cops" 1981-Mar-02 Thorpe is shot by a cop.
53 "Burnout" 1981-Mar-09 Carver's history teacher begins to show signs of burnout, much to the dismay of Rutherford.
54 "A Day in the Life" 1981-Mar-16 A Carver alumni exhibition game brings updates on Hayward, Reese, Gomez, and Goldstein since graduation.

DVD releases[edit]

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has released the first two seasons on DVD in Region 1.[1][2]

Cultural effects[edit]

When aired in 1980s in Turkey the series gained a lot of interest and the then unknown sport of basketball attracted millions of youth.[3]

Saturday Night Live did a parody skit of the show titled The Black Shadow when NBA star Bill Russell hosted the show on November 3, 1979.


External links[edit]