Late to the (Frat) Party: ABC Family’s ‘Greek’

Let’s chalk it up to a tad bit of nostalgia and a healthy dose of reflection.

I wasn’t exactly desperate for a new show – I had gone most of the strike-forced hiatuses for my favourite shows without getting hooked on much new material, so surely I could last a weekend. However, perhaps it was the return of The Office and 30 Rock that sparked it; they were a high from which I would surely crash during the normal Friday Night doldrums, and I gave in to temptation.

However, the choice of temptation was all of the above – as I prepare to complete my undergraduate university education, it’s a time to reflect back on the university experience. And, coincidentally, I sat down and watched Greek, ABC Family’s college dramedy sat in the Greek system. And, well, I really enjoyed it.

And that might not just be the reflection talking.

Admittedly, as anyone who knows me and has also watched the show (This list is fairly small), I can’t really be nostalgic. My experience really doesn’t match up with any of these groups, whether it is due to a lack of fraternity’s, the lack of the rugged good looks or the floppy hair, or pretty much just that we are still dealing with a heavily romanticized view of College here.

I watched the show primarily because I’ve been hearing enough good things, or at the very least decent things, that I was curious – a few reviews/comments had mentioned Veronica Mars, and as a fan of the series who recently rewatched his DVDs I figured that there was the potential for a stand-in. I’m not to the point of entering it into that territory yet, but I will say this much: I wish Gossip Girl was more like Greek.

Really, teen dramas come in a number of packages: there’s the Soap Opera (The O.C.), the Sex Opera (Gossip Girl) and the Thematic Opera. I would argue that Greek and Veronica Mars at least share this final category, shows that use their characters and their setting to discuss themes of identity, belonging, etc. The O.C. was capable of it, and Gossip Girl has tried and failed a few times, but they’re just a bit too reliant on their soapy or sexual tropes.

Greek, on the other hand, is arguably a fairly wholesome show. Surrounding the exploits of Rusty and Casey Cartwright at a fictional and pretentiously named college called Carnegie-Rhodes, it has your usual teen clichés – Rusty as the awkward younger brother struggling for acceptance and his first love, Casey as the older sister ashamed of her brother and dealing with a love triangle of her own which intertwines with both shunned brother and Senator’s daughter, various comic sidekicks, etc.

I’m not arguing it’s original, but the show doesn’t take things far: the sex is implied, the making out fairly tame, and you can tell that ABC Family is tiptoeing around certain issues. The introduction of homosexuality was done in an ineffectual manner, and I don’t think any of the show’s characters have gone beyond hugs and implied but never shown fooling around. Perhaps it’s that we Canadians have too many weekly airings of Degrassi and ABC proper has Brothers & Sisters, but aren’t we beyond that point even on a “family” network?

And yet, I can’t fault them too greatly, as the lack of emphasis on sex is forcing them to head in other directions. There’s a lot of great humour on the show, and it has ranged from various different characters and scenarios. It is perhaps best encapsulated in Cappie, the head of Rusty’s fraternity, Casey’s ex, and generally your typical frat boy (with a heart of course – have you never watched one of these shows?).

The show has smartly avoided always sticking him into the love triangle with Casey and her on-again, off-again beau Evan Chambers (Who is an amalgam of Dean and Logan, if we’re talking in Gilmore terms…we weren’t, were we? Damn.), and has instead sent him off into his own territory. Scott Foster, the actor in question, has the longing looks down pat, which works when he enters outside of it. On the other side of the coin, there is great humour to be found in not just his antics but his wit as well.

And while I don’t like comparing it to Veronica Mars, per se, I do kind of wish that Veronica had stayed with that sorority now – I honestly think that there’s some great material being mined here, and that the show is smart to keep from getting bogged down in heavily serialized storylines. I say this as a fan of such initiatives, but this is all very streamline: no hackneyed parental storylines, only one relatively minor “The Man” character getting in their way, and a less than heavy-handed handling of romance.

I think there are things I’d improve: while I like Dale, Rusty’s confederate flag owning, bible-loving Baptist, I do think that he’s still a bit too much of a caricature, although his recent storyline with Calvin is strong. Calvin has been strong with all of the characters he’s played off of, really, which makes me hope that he continues to make the rounds.

In terms of the cast, it’s a relatively group of no-names, although two stand out: most would jump at the fact that Jessica Rose, who enters as an all too eager pledge, is the actress who pulled the LonelyGirl15 stunt (Which is referenced in the show). However, I was more intrigued to find that Aaron Hill, who plays Kappa Tau’s resident drunkard Beaver, also played Peggy’s blind date in “Indian Summer” on Mad Men. Screw internet hoax, Mad Men is where it’s at.

Anywho, since I now have run out of episodes, I guess it is inevitable: with many episodes of HIMYM left to come, I still decided to pick up a new show. Will likely be back with review on Monday night.

And let the fun begin.

1 Comment

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One response to “Late to the (Frat) Party: ABC Family’s ‘Greek’

  1. Hey, great post but just a quick error..they attend Cyprus-Rhodes.

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