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Season Finale: Greek – “All Children Grow Up”

“All Children Grow Up”

March 29, 2010

Despite having been in college when the show began, I have never really “related” to ABC Family’s Greek in the way that you might expect. While I certainly have met people like the characters in the show, I went to a school without a greek system, and so I was sort of like a pledge myself when the show began. One of the show’s best qualities is how they’ve managed to turn the fraternities and sororities into an integral part of not only the show’s universe, but also each individual character: while no character is solely define by their position in a fraternity or sorority, it remains an integral part of their identity that the show has given depth over the course of three seasons.

While the show has its love triangles and its relationship drama, and its fraternity drama can sometimes boil down to simple concepts of revenge or rivalry, at the core of the series is a sense of belonging, a community that is powerful enough to want Cappie to never leave college, for Casey to abandon the opportunity to go to law school, and for Dale to want to be a part of it even with his moral reservations. And while I may not have been part of a fraternity, I fully understand the characters’ anxiety about leaving all of that behind, abandoning all of that for the great unknown. While the machinations of a show working to set things up to potentially continue in the future despite lead characters graduating are apparent in “All Children Grow Up,” the drama is driven by a nuanced and subtle portrayal of the struggles which come with leaving everything you know behind for something new; that we so wholly believe their concerns demonstrates the effectiveness of the show’s world-building over the past three seasons.

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Friday Night Lights – “Injury List”

“Injury List”

January 27th, 2010

Friday Night Lights is a show about convergence.

Really, all ensemble dramas end up driving towards climaxes which tend to bring various story elements together, so this may not seem overly remarkable. However, as the show heads towards the conclusion of its fourth season, the show is doing a lot to bring together stories, simplifying in some instances and complicating in others.

And while some of the tension created by this convergence is engaging, what I tend to enjoy more is the sort of indirect effects: this is the first time in a while where the show actively demonstrated the show’s central dilemma of ignoring the football in order to service the characters on a personal, non-football level, and that tension (when used, as opposed to simply created and elided) is part of the show’s tragedy.

“Injury List” is about capturing the tragedy of stories converging at the worst possible time, although the show manages to keep (most of) that convergence from seeming too convenient in the show’s late season push.

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Season Premiere: Greek – “The Day After”

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“The Day After”

August 31st, 2009

As one of the few critics who has spent a lot of time analyzing ABC Family’s Greek (although welcome Todd VanDerWerff to the club), I’ve been somewhat harsh on the main romantic element of the series. Casey, as a character, is trapped in a romantic spiral, and the show has spent far too much time humming and hawwing when it comes to her various entanglements. When Casey is actually with someone, the character is neurotic but in a way that seems productive: when she’s pining for someone or trapped in between two options, things because convoluted and almost seem to crawl to a halt. Greek is not so much a guilty pleasure as it is a very solid dramedy masquerading as a teen soap opera, but in these moments the show becomes the very definition of what its detractors (who haven’t seen the show) believe it to be.

However, I want to give them a fair deal of credit. “The Day After,” picking up the morning following the second season finale, spends a lot of time dealing with the relationship between Casey and Cappie, and in a way that I think really works. One of the problems some shows have when dealing with an inevitable coupling delayed by circumstance (See: Gilmore Girls) is that they’re secretly perfect for one another and yet just can’t seem to make it work. It means that when they do get together, when everything seems to fit, the show’s drama stops, and in order to prolong that drama one must contrive reasons for them to split regardless of logic…okay, Gilmore Girls rant over.

My point is that I like what they’re doing in the relationship between Casey and Cappie because of how flawed they would be as a couple, and how they’re not pretending that’s not an issue. Cappie is by far the show’s most interesting character, and the way he handles the aftermath of “The End of the World” demonstrates the complexity of Greek’s plan for their partnership. Yes, I still think the rest of the show is often more interesting, but if this is how Cappie is going to spend some of his time this season then I think my Casey bashing will be somewhat less as the year continues.

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Season Finale: Greek – “At World’s End”

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“At World’s End”

June 15th, 2009

To signal the end of the world, there are various signs of the apocalypse, things which let you know that doom is imminent. To signal the end of a season of Greek, though, you know that Casey and Cappie are about to become intertwined, Rusty will face some sort of crisis, and some sort of major fraternity/sorority event will take place.

However, what always impresses me about Greek is how the various parts all come together in such a way that feels far more organic than it has any right to, and with greater meaning than one would expect the show to aspire to. Sure, the episode had its comic subplot (Rusty and Dale’s altered purity pledge), but for the most part it tackles the fates of the siblings Cartwright with just the right amount of interconnectivity, and with perhaps the show’s most focused lens yet in terms of sidelining supporting players.

Combined with tying up a few loose ends, “At World’s End” isn’t the end for this show by a long shot, but it takes the episode’s theme and runs with it to the point of really encapsulating where these characters sit within the world of Cyprus-Rhodes university. And although there aren’t too many “critics” covering the show on a regular basis, it also proves how a combination of cultural relevance and self-awareness have made this without question the strongest teen-focused dramedy on the air.

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Greek – “Isn’t it Bro-mantic?”

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“Isn’t it Bromantic?”

June 1st, 2009

I had planned to blog about this week’s episode of Greek on Monday when it aired, but as it turned out I had already written thoughts on both Chuck and Conan O’Brien’s first Tonight Show, and I didn’t want to create an overload of sorts. But then, as I moved into the next few days, I had no other material to blog about, but just never got back to this week’s episode.

To be honest, I kind of liked “Isn’t it Bro-mantic?” on a number of levels, primarily because it catered to my own opinion of these characters quite slavishly. By placing Casey at the depths of patheticness, the show portrayed as being the revolving third wheel of doom, which I totally see as a dominant character trait for her when she’s not coupled off with someone. I’d normally think this is annoying, but since the show so willingly paints a picture of Casey as selfish and close-minded in the face of the situation, it’s actually quite realistic and honest.

Don’t have a whole lot to say about the episode, but figured I’d drop a few thoughts after the jump.

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Greek – “Social Studies”

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“Social Studies”

May 25th, 2009

It has been a really long time since I’ve taken the time to write a blog post about Greek, but it is amongst the list of shows that I have kept watching without, well, telling all of you fine folks about it. Part of this is because, in the list of in-season priorities, Greek is often low on the list, although I often watch it quite soon after it airs: however, it’s usually as a break from blogging about something else, or in between classes when I don’t have time to write about it after the fact.

I say all of this knowing full well that, most of the time, Greek is not the kind of show you can really ‘review’ in the critical sense. However, I don’t want to be seen as someone who believes that the show is without any sort of critical merit, and that it should always remain in the realm of the guilty pleasure. The series has a deep bench of characters who are almost all capable of intereacting with one another, and has struck a tone that isn’t saccharine and manages to maintain dramatic and comic interest without falling into scandal or soap operatic archetypes.

The show is never going to be high level drama, but an episode like “Social Studies” is a great example of the way the show can take a scenario common to any college series of this nature and really use it to build existing storylines. That the episode is dealing with the show’s relationships should turn me off to this particular entry into the show’s strong backend to the second season (it’s a really weird schedule), but something about the way the episode handles the two relationships made the episode work for me.

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