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Greek: Chapter One (2007)
DVD Released: 3/18/2008
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/18/2008
I don't claim to be an expert on the ABC Family cable channel, but here's what I do know about it. (If this is woefully inaccurate, again, I'm not expert.) ABC purchased the Fox Family Channel and renamed it ABC Family. They somehow retained the rights to Fox kids shows, such as Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers and Digimon. From there, they created some original shows, such as Greek. Having now seen Greek, I can say that ABC Family may be an odd place to air the show. There are two characters on the show who are related, and that's the closest that this surprisingly provocative show gets to "family programming".
Greek is set at the fictional Ohio college Cypress-Rhodes University. Freshman Rusty Cartwright (Jacob Zachar) arrives on campus, a bright-eyed innocent. He finds his dorm room and meets his roommate, Dale (Clark Duke), a deeply religious and possibly racist young man. Despite the fact that Rusty is in the honor physics program, he is determined to have fun in college and he decides to rush a fraternity. Rusty is the polar opposite of his sister, Casey (Spencer Grammer), who is also a student at CRU. She is a junior and she is in the upper echelon of the Zeta Beta Zeta sorority and she's on track to become ZBZ president. She's dating Evan Chambers (Jake McDorman), who is the president of his fraternity, which is the most upper-crust house on campus. She has never told any of her college friends about Rusty and she's not crazy about the fact that he's now on campus.
Rusty is excited and scared as he goes to rush. During the visits to the various houses, he becomes friends with Calvin (Paul James). Despite his awkward nature, and the fact that he doesn't really look like any of the other people who are rushing, Rusty makes an impression on Evan. But, he's also endeared himself to Cappie (Scott M. Foster), the president of the Kappa Tau's, who are known for their raucous parties. This decision is the first of many which Rusty will face as he traverses the difficulties of college life.
I went to The Greatest College in America, which had a very large fraternity and sorority system. And to be quite honest, I was never crazy about the Greek system (based mostly on the behavior which I witnessed at football games!). Because of those prejudices, I wasn't expecting much from Greek. I assumed that the show would either be Animal House crazy (although, coming from ABC Family, I didn't think that it would be that crazy) or something which glorified Greek life.
In reality, Greek falls somewhere of the middle of those two ideas, and it manages to be quite entertaining along the way. The show is essentially a prime-time soap set on a college campus. Actually, soap isn't the correct term as those shows usually feature a heightened reality with exaggerated, if not fantastic story lines. (Dawson's Creek, a show which I liked, often had plots which went far beyond the scope of the average teenager's life.) Greek simply follows the lives of a group of college kids who are attempting to traverse the various challenges which can crop up in everyday school and social life.
And this is what makes Greek appealing. Even someone like me, who doesn't like the idea of sororities and fraternities, found myself interested in the stories due to the fact that they often accurately reflect college life. While most of the show focuses on the Greek system, there are also subplots about relationships, roommates, and schoolwork which will ring true to most anyone who went to college. The biggest theme of Greek seems to be that everyone is simply trying to find a place to fit in at college. Again, Rusty is a fish-out-of-water, not only at college, but especially in the frat. But, we see that first impressions aren't always accurate and that anyone can find their niche.
The thing which really makes Greek work are the characters...but not the main ones. Rusty is meant to be awkward, but he's a bit too whiny at times. Casey is meant to be uptight, but she's a bit too bitchy at times. Evan is meant to be the villain, but he's a bit too likable at times. The characters who steal the show are Cappie and Dale. Cappie is very similar to Jeremy Piven's character in PCU. He's the quintessential professional student who knows enough about everything to be dangerous. He's a party animal, but he also feels protective of Rusty and he takes care of the kid. Cappie often has the funniest lines on the show. Dale could have easily been a stereotype, but he's written as a religious zealot who isn't out to change others. He always invites Rusty to his religious groups, but when Rusty declines, Dale respects that. Dale is one of the most refreshing TV characters which I've seen recently.
I have to admit, Greek is much better than I had expected. Still, the show is far from perfect. While the stories are intriguing, the show is very predictable and there are few surprises, and despite the presence of a character as original as Dale, many of the students are stereotypes. My biggest problem with the show is that it's full of continuity errors. Watch closely and you'll see that no one is ever in the same position when the scene cuts back to them. Greek would be right at home on The CW, and I'm still confused as to why it's on ABC Family. The sex, drinking, and language don't make it appropriate for any family...except for the Manson Family. (I know that's a cheap joke, but I couldn't resist.)
Greek: Chapter One gets hazed on DVD courtesy of ABC Family (a division of Buena Vista Home Entertainment). This three-disc set contains all 10 episodes from the show's first season. (10 episodes? That's an odd number. Well, it's not an odd number...) The episodes are letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The images here are sharp, but they aren't always clear, as the transfer displays varying degrees of grain throughout. Some shots show only slight grain, but some contain so much grain that the action isn't clear. There is also a notable lack of detail to some shots. On the plus side, the colors look good and in the night-time scenes, the action is never overly dark. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There are some nice stereo effects at times, and the party scenes produce a smattering of surround effects, but for the most part, the audio comes from the center and front channels. Incidentally, the in-show music sounds good.
The Greek: Chapter One DVD set contains only a few extras. Disc 1 contains an AUDIO COMMENTARY for the "Pilot" with Creator/Co-executive Producer Patrick Sean Smith and Executive Producers Shawn Piller and Lloyd Segan. This is a fairly good commentary, as the three share information about the production of the show. We learn about the locations and the casting of the show. We also get info about where Smith got the idea for the show. Disc 2 has two AUDIO COMMENTARIES. "Friday Night Frights" has a talk with actors Spencer Grammer, Dilshaad Vadsaria, and Amber Stevens. Actors Jake McDorman, Scott Michael Foster, Paul James, and Clark Duke provide commentary on "Separation Anxieity". Both of these talks are adequate, but as with most cast commentaries, they get a bit too silly at times, and don't always give us great information. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 3. "Greek: The Initiation" (10 minutes) isn't really a making-of featurette, but it does offer a lot of behind-the-scenes footage. On the positive side, we get a tour of the set, and we learn that several actors auditioned for other roles on the show, and we get to see those audition tapes. On the negative side, there's no discussion about the origins of the show. Creator Patrick Sean Smith comments on this briefly, but he doesn't talk about where he went to college or what his experiences were. (He does share some of this on the audio commentary.) The DVD contains three DELETED SCENES which run a little over a minute and can be viewed with commentary by Smith. As you can imagine, these are incidental, but the second is actually referenced in the episode "Depth Perception". We also get an EXTENDED SEQUENCE for the scene where Dale's band Darwin Lied play their song "Heathens Be Warned".
Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long