Greek - "The Day After"

Greek - "The Day After"

Greek's third season begins tonight on ABC Family at 9 p.m. EDT/8 p.m. CDT.

Before this summer, I had never seen an episode of ABC Family’s Greek, a show that had a reputation among some of my critic and TV blogger friends as quite good but also a show that was a.) on ABC Family and b.) a borderline teen soap (a genre I’ve had more than enough of). Since this summer started, though, I’ve mainlined every episode of Greek, and now I can pretty easily say that those critic and blogger friends were right, and the fact that this show is on ABC Family means that a bunch of people who should probably be watching it never will. And that’s kind of sad. I try not to be too affected by what network a show is on, but, let’s face it, it’s often too easy to succumb to the idea that a show is bad just because of the specialty network it’s on, because of the brand that network appeals to.

Well, as a recent convert to the cause, I’m happy to say that Greek is the best show of its type since the heyday of Gilmore Girls. While it’s not quite to the level of that show (and what could be?), it’s a really solid blend of good character work, gentle comedy and soapy plot twists. This isn’t the sort of genre that typically wins a lot of love from the TV cognoscenti (nor AV Club comments sections), so I always feel like I have to qualify the enjoyment I feel for the show, but I’m going to say that if you enjoy funny, sweet dramedies, Greek is a show you should be watching.

What’s holding this back from being as good as Gilmore Girls is the soapy plotting. There’s a fair amount of bed hopping on the show, which really comes with the territory, but not all of the relationships on the show are created equal. In particular, I don’t terribly care about which guy Rebecca Logan is sleeping with at any given moment. Similarly, I often have trouble caring about the internal politics of any of the Greek houses, particularly the Zeta Beta Zeta house, where the characters, outside of the wonderful and luminous Casey, are just not as well-defined as the other characters. So while I’m down with all of the Casey-Cappie intrigue (probably the most invested I’ve been in a will-they/won’t-they romance in quite some time), many of the other pairings on the show leave me bored.

But that’s neither here nor there. For the most part, the male characters on this show are terrifically drawn, and most episodes feature enough of their interactions that it makes for good TV. The sibling relationship between Casey and Rusty is one of the best depictions of two siblings realizing that they can set aside the rivalry of their youth and just be friends on TV right now. Meanwhile, the portrayals of both fundamentalist Christianity, in the form of Rusty’s roommate, Dale, and homosexuality, in the form of Rusty’s friend, Calvin, are surprisingly nuanced and open, especially as Dale and Calvin have struck up an unusual and unprecedented friendship. There’s a scene between the two in tonight’s premiere that’s quietly devastating, and it’s not the sort of thing you’d expect in this genre.

That’s what most attracts me to Greek in the end – it has a respect and passion for its characters that many teen soaps don’t have. Despite the show’s seeming existence solely as a way to show off college debauchery, its sweet nature keeps it from ever getting too deeply into vapid plots about who slept with whom and who got the drunkest last night. Though these plots exist, Greek has enough confidence in what it’s doing to play around with the emotions of its characters and see how they react in these circumstances. It makes the show surprisingly soulful at times.

And while Greek will never be an especially deep show, its portrayal of college as a place where you expand your horizons and discover just who you could be or who you might want to be is expressing an idea that’s become cliché in a fresh and interesting way. Because all of the characters on the show are discovering so much about themselves through the process of going to college and are so enthralled by the very process of becoming, of transformation, it makes story beats that could feel overdone feel new and fascinating. There’s nothing on Greek that you haven’t seen done a million times before, but at its best, Greek does them as well as anybody else.

So how about the third season premiere? By and large, it’s a really well done premiere, setting up a variety of storylines for the season to come and giving us a quick rundown of both the cast and the setting. As mentioned, the scene between Calvin and Dale is terrific, but there’s also a moment when Dale seeks advice from the wise-beyond-his-years Cappie and finds himself drawn into Cappie’s latest relationship drama. The main question here is whether Cappie and Casey will get back together – which is the central thrust of the show – after she made a big confession to him in the season finale earlier this year, but the episode winds a number of other plots in and around that one.

In particular, I’m intrigued to see what the show does with the plot of Evan suddenly being penniless after he rejected his trust fund. Evan was kind of a stock villain when the show began, but as it has run along, he’s become more and more sympathetic, and his willingness to stand up against his parents last season has finally made him one of the more sympathetic characters on the show. Seeing him having to follow the called shots of another character who finds out his secret is a nice little twist, and the dawning realization that he’s truly on his own – and that that’s both terrifying and enthralling to him – is giving the character a lot to work with.

Greek is never going to be for everyone. There’s dumb stuff on the show (particularly in regards to the soundtrack, which is full of the twinkly, stupid music that drags down many an otherwise enjoyable ABC dramedy), but what it does well, it does so well that it’s easy to fall in love with the show despite its flaws. So if you can lock your doors to keep your friends from  coming over, pull down the blinds so no one can see inside and turn down your TV just low enough that no one will ever know you’re watching ABC Family, Greek is definitely something you should check out. And if you can’t do all of that, then you should check it out all the same.

Grade: A-

Series so far: B+

Stray observations:

  • Listen. I realize we probably have two people who watch and enjoy Greek here, but if there are more, I want every single one of you to comment. This show deserves weekly TV Club coverage, but it’s only going to get it if there are enough of us. So invite your friends, make some noise, etc.
  • When I saw John de Lancie’s name in the opening credits, I got very excited, since he was so great on Breaking Bad this season. But I daresay that Greek found just as good of a usage for him, without ever showing his face.
  • I said a lot above without ever praising the actors, but the cast here is just terrific and surprisingly deep, from the leads to the smallest of bit players. I think I’ll single out Spencer Grammer, who’s playing a part that’s hard to play – the hot girl who’s developing a conscience and a sense of who she is beyond “hot girl” – and making it look effortless.
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