ABC Family // 2009 // 440 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // August 18th, 2009
A new semester with new challenges.
"How hard can it be to organize a threesome?"
Spring Break is over, and it's time for all the students of Cyprus-Rhodes University to head back to school. What are they up to these days?
Senator's daughter Rebecca Logan (Dilshad Vadsaria, Rapture) is making an attempt to recover gracefully from the wild (and very public) wet t-shirt behavior she engaged in during spring break. Additionally, her status as a figure of influence and power is waning due to the sex scandal her father has become involved in. She's still dating Cappie (Scott Michael Foster, Quarterlife), the free-spirited leader of the Kappa Tau fraternity. Cappie has his doubts about the relationship, but things seem to be going smoothly enough.
Rusty Cartwright (Jacob Zachar, King of the Hill) is enjoying his life as a Kappa Tau pledge, though he frequently finds himself torn between his social life and his studies. The demands of his fraternity are frequently threatening to bring a rift between himself and Calvin (Paul James, Spinning Into Butter), a member of another fraternity. Calvin has social problems of his own, as he just isn't sure whether his kind boyfriend Michael (Max Greenfield, Veronica Mars) is the right guy for him.
Meanwhile, Rusty's older sister Casey Cartwright (Spencer Grammer, As the World Turns) is attempting to deal with the responsibilities of being Zeta Beta Zeta president. It's a complicated job, and sometimes it's hard to tell her allies apart from her enemies. On the romantic front, she finds herself falling for a shy RA named Max (Michael Rady, Swingtown). Could this be the relationship that allows her to recover from her failed flings with Cappie and Evan (Jake McDorman, Live Free or Die Hard)?
Speaking of Evan, he's currently dating Frannie (Tiffany DuPont, One Night With the King), who initially seems to be making an attempt to be Casey's friend. Alas, it seems the attempts at friendship are nothing more than an act, as Frannie is secretly planning to steal the presidency from Casey.
It's going to be a semester full of lies, politics, and plenty of good old-fashioned debauchery. Who will be on top of the social pile by the time the semester concludes?
Ten episodes are spread across three discs:
* Brothers and Sisters
* Crush Landing
* Lets Make a Deal
* Gays, Ghosts and Gamma Rays
* Pledge Allegiance
* See You Next Time, Sisters!
* Formally Yours
* The Popular Vote
* Three's a Crowd
* Hell Week
When Greek debuted, it caught me by surprise. Sure, on the surface it was being billed as a teen-centered soap opera that exploited notorious reputations of wild fraternities and catty sororities, but it proved to be considerably more substantial. It examined a lot of real-world issues in a frank, casual, honest way that I found far more likely to actually get through to teens than stiff, government-approved PSAs would. Unfortunately, this third "chapter" (actually the first half of the second season) too often hints that the show might just be slipping into what I feared it would be to begin with. There is still substance and value in this collection, but a disappointingly high level of trash that very nearly overwhelms the third chapter.
The most frustrating plot strand is Casey's campaign to serve a second term as President of ZBZ. In a development that seems to come out of thin air, Frannie transforms into an evil witch once again and declares that she is running for president. "Wait," I thought, "Wasn't she banned from ever running for president again?" Yes, indeed she was. The show gets around that by having Frannie appeal to the national Zeta Beta Zeta board in an attempt to get the rules changed. Now, it seems a very sensible rule that a president who has been thrown out of office for corrupt behavior should not be permitted to run again. The fact that this rule is overturned with such ease seems incredibly unconvincing to me. The only thing less convincing is Frannie's new "bad girl" behavior, which is both obvious and irritating.
On the frat boy side of things, too much time is spent focusing on the wacky antics of Kappa Tau. These moments served as amusing comic relief in previous seasons, but they are better employed as a spice, not the main course. Too many of these moments become so wacky that they threaten to destroy the credibility the show attempts to employ most of the time. Greek has taken great pains to demonstrate that it takes place in the real world, so why does chapter three work so hard to undermine that? The unconvincing absurdity of these moments is perfectly summarized during an incredibly random moment in which Lauren Conrad of The Hills turns up to have a casual conversation with Casey. This sudden switch from reality to teen magazine fantasy is bothersome, and I hope the producers correct it in seasons to come.
The transfer is inconsistent, sometimes seeming quite sharp and clear while other times suffering from a significant lack of clarity. The evening scenes in particular are lacking in depth and focus. This is not the sort of show that demands great visuals, but I do wish that there were some measure of consistency. The audio gets the job done, conveying the breezy pop score with clarity. Extras include audio commentaries with the cast and crew on three episodes, a 16-minute featurette in which the cast is asked 20 questions related to the show ("Are you like your character in real life?") and a 3-minute blooper reel.
For all the major missteps of this season (and there are plenty), the show still has just enough good stuff to give me hope. GLAAD and other gay rights groups have praised the show for the inclusion of a gay character named Calvin, played quite well by Paul James. While I don't think it's particularly noteworthy that a television show includes a gay supporting character, it is noteworthy that the character is not a conventional gay stereotype. Calvin continues to be one of the most nuanced and compelling characters on the program, and his subplots often explore various social issues in a mature and thoughtful manner. Likewise, Rusty's roommate Dale is a very unconventional portrayal of a conservative Christian. The character originated as a joke, but he has become so much more over time.
Another character really starts to emerge this season: Ashley (Amber Stevens, Fired Up), Casey's best friend and perpetually cheerful source of moral support. Various subplots push her character into some interesting places this season, and Stevens responds by delivering some of her best work yet.
Even the awful presidential campaign plot is nearly redeemed in the end thanks to a very unexpected conclusion that drives the show into an interesting place. Related to this, the final shot of the last episode included suggests that chapter four might be very intriguing, indeed.
The show misfires a bit more than usual this time around. This concerns me, but I think it's too soon to abandon hope. Those who enjoyed the first two chapters will probably like this one, so go ahead and check it out, and we'll wait until chapter four comes out to actually judge the direction of Greek. Sound good? Have a great summer, boys and girls!
Cutting it close, but not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2009 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ABC Family
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 440 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries
* Official Site