When it first came out Greek was kind of an enigma. There was very little buzz about the program and considering it was a fraternity based show on ABC Family many would-be viewers wrote it off as a Disney version of Animal House. For all intents and purposes the naysayers may be correct but there is actually more to the show than meets the eye. Greek proves to be a refreshing dramady and in all honesty it's more risqué than the typical ABC Family show.
Comprised of ten episodes the first season of Greek turned out to be enough of a success that ABC signed it up for a second semester. Given the growth in popularity and, I'm sure subsequent DVD sales, chances are pretty good that you'll be hearing more about this slice of college life series. After sitting through "Chapter One" I'm eagerly anticipating what happens next for these characters and if you give this show a shot I'm sure you will too.
When Greek begins the theme is "rush". Rusty Cartwright is a very green, very geeky freshman who has just arrived at Cyprus-Rhodes University. Having lived the life of a dork majoring in Polymer science, Rusty wants to see what college life has to offer. Actually, scratch that. Rusty wants to see what fraternity life has to offer. He heads out to every house he can get to and along the way he meets Calvin who kind of takes him under his wing. After hitting the Omega Chi house Rusty was thrilled because the president of the fraternity, Evan, also happens to be dating his sister Casey. Even though it looked like an easy in, Rusty and Calvin still went on to the next frat house, Kappa Tau Gamma.
Kappa Tau is a fraternity that lives up to the example set by the Delta Tau Chi House from Animal House. The louder the party, the hotter the girls, and the wilder the pranks the better! Rusty is befriended by Cappie, who is Kappa Tau's president and ex-boyfriend of Casey. Rusty's geek mentality doesn't fit in well with the party crowd but even so a girl is splayed out before him with salt on her belly and a lime in her mouth. Rusty is handed a shot of tequila and what transpires next is rather unpredictable, earning him the nickname "Spitter".
From there Rusty's world is turned upside down. On his way back to Omega Chi he catches Evan cheating on Casey with a girl named Rebecca. Due to that Rusty tells Casey about Evan's indiscretion which helps form a bond between the brother and sister that wasn't there before. Not only does it do that but it also makes Evan angry enough to take a swing at Rusty who fights back with a pledging paddle which ingratiates the geek to Cappie and the Kappa Tau. Once this stepping stone is out of the way Greek truly gets started and the rest of the cast is fleshed out.
To say that Greek features complex relationships between its cast would be an understatement. With regards to affairs of the heart Casey and Evan's courtship is fairly messed up, Casey still pines for Cappie (who considers Evan to be "evil"), Rebecca joins Casey's sorority, Rusty's friend Calvin is gay, and in between it all Rusty finds himself living with a religious zealot who has a confederate flag on the wall. Yes, college life isn't easy but as Greek explores it we see exactly how much fun it can be.
For better or worse the show spends more time exploring its characters and relationships than it does each actual plot. While some of these personalities are relatively one-dimensional there are a few that receive some nice fleshing out and truly grow on you. Rusty remains a deep and endearing character, Calvin gains strength due to his internal struggle about coming out, and Cappie, well...Cappie is just about the most likeable character you're going to find in this show. He is almost too charismatic for his own good.
As likeable as these kids are there is something of a disconnection between them and the viewer. The motives of Greek's characters are never explained satisfactorily and that turns out to be kind of frustrating. One example of this is the fact that Casey remains in the sorority house even after her president tells her to stay with Evan despite the fact that he cheated, threatened to kick her out due to her rivalry with Rebecca, and the amount backstabbing that goes on. Another thing that doesn't necessarily help the show is its reliance on debauchery. Under normal circumstances I applaud drunken depravity but here it just comes across as slightly shallow thanks to the fact that the writing simply doesn't hold up well enough to support it.
Despite some occasional misgivings the first season of Greek is highly entertaining. The world created here features some fun characters and as the show explores them you'll appreciate being along for the ride. It's not quite as zany as Animal House and it never takes itself too seriously like a soap opera but it's safe to say that Greek finds its home somewhere in between. There is a guilty pleasure factor that comes along with the program though there's enough charm here to endear it to a wider audience. I'm looking forward to the second season and hope that the writers work out some of the kinks.
Greek: Chapter One hits DVD with an anamorphic widescreen presentation and the transfer done for this release is exemplary. With regards to the picture quality there is some slight grain that most likely stems from the filming of the series. This has been left intact but in all honesty the grain hardly detracts from the image thanks to the crispness of the picture and near total lack of compression. Colors also appear vibrant and natural and never come across as too warm for their own good. Overall this is a fine looking series that is presented fantastically on DVD!
A Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix is the only one available for this release and frankly it's all you're ever going to need. Due to the fact that this is a dialogue driven program your rear channels won't get much of a workout but at times there is a nice sense of immersion. A 2.0 track would have been suitable but the 5.1 allows ambient noise to give a more robust experience. French and Spanish subtitles are included but an English track for the hearing impaired is available as well.
To my surprise Greek actually comes with a decent selection of bonus material that's meaty enough to sink your teeth into. On the lighter side of things there is a sneak peak at the second season with some discussion from the cast, an extended sequence for "Heathens Be Warned" by Darwin Lied is tacked on, and three fairly pointless deleted scenes are available as well.
The better supplemental content comes in the form of a featurette entitled "Greek: The Initiation". Running at just under ten minutes this little bit gives us a look behind the scenes of the show with some run thoughts of the sets and discussions with the folks who make the show. There's a decent amount of information and personal perspective included here but the three commentaries provide much more. The first disc offers a commentary for "Pilot" with Patrick Sean Smith, Shawn Piller, and Lloyd Segan. The second disc holds the other two for "Friday Night Frights" with Spencer Grammar, Dilshad Vadsaria, and Amber Stevens, along with "Separation Anxiety" with Jake McDorman, Scott Michael Foster, Paul James, and Clark Duke. The commentary for "Pilot" was easily the most informative as it pertained to the production of the show while the latter two commentaries felt more like a group of friends getting back together and watching a show. There was a lot of fun to be had and once you're done watching the episodes I suggest you check these out for some more laughs and insight.
I must admit that Greek truly surprised me. For all of its flaws the show turned out to be an endearing, entertaining, and witty look at life in a fraternity. Viewed mostly from the eyes of Rusty the outsider the series takes the perception of college into new areas. It's not as crazy as Animal House and it's on ABC Family but that doesn't mean things are completely watered down. There's plenty to love about this show despite some shortcomings which will hopefully be ironed out in the next season. As it stands this is a fun soap opera-like series that is something of a guilty pleasure. Strongly Recommended
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