26 September 2010

Greek: Chapter One

Cast: Jacob Zachar, Clark Duke, Scott Michael Foster, Spencer Grammer, Paul James, Jake McDorman, Amber Stevens, Dilshad Vadsaria
Created by Patrick Sean Smith
Transmission season: Summer 2007
ABC Family, 10 episodes, 42 mins.

Plot: Freshman Rusty Cartwright pledges Kappa Tau, and his science nerdiness part of his sorta gets thrown upside down.

I’ve realized I’m no better than the next teenager who digs drama-filled television. By golly, my guilty pleasure is ONE TREE HILL, and here I am sucked into another soap opera-esque program, at least this time the students are college level dudes with ‘grown up’ drama. This new show is the ABC Family program GREEK, now nearing its fourth and final season early next year. The funny thing is that I avoided this show for the longest time. There would be promos on my KYLE XY sets [note: if you have not yet had the honor of experiencing KYLE XY, I would very much recommend you do so in the very immediate future], and I would hardly pay it any attention. Honestly, it looked rubbish, and I was sure I had the entire series pegged just from the trailer – twenty to thirty year olds playing young college students, plenty of ‘you slept with my boyfriend!’ storylines, and ‘awkward science nerd’ scenarios galore. I guess it was inevitable that GREEK would end up becoming my fall 2010 addiction.

GREEK: CHAPTER ONE is composed of the first ten episodes of season one, with the remaining twelve on the CHAPTER TWO DVD [which is unavailable for rent, so expect my reviews of those episodes as part of The Watcher]. In a day and a half, those ten episodes were devoured, and one of my favorite characters in the soap opera world established. More on that later. So for those like me who were a bit reluctant to take the plunge with GREEK, here’s the lowdown:

The show begins from the point of view of Rusty Cartwright (Zachar), a freshman science genius who seeks to join a fraternity, much to the irritation of his roommate Dale (Duke). He prances over to the Zeta Beta Zeta house where his sister Casey Cartwright is second in command to get some advice, and she’s understandably a tad reluctant to give it. At this point in her life, Casey has it all: good grades, a great kinship with her ZBZ sisters, and the most awesomest boyfriend of all time in the form of Evan Chambers (McDorman), so she sorta gives him some halfhearted advice and he goes off on his own to do some pledging. Rusty lands at Kappa Tau, a relaxed and party-heavy fraternity run by Casey’s ex Cappie (Foster), who still has feelings for Casey and does the occasional construction of situations to try to win her back. As a new pledge, Rusty juggles Kappa Tau, school work, and trying to lose his awkward stance with girls.

Like most shows centered towards young adult ‘coming-of-age’ stories, the strength of the show is its cast, characters, and stories. Luckily, the folks behind GREEK are full of vigor, offering fresh plotlines and three dimensional characters that are charming, interesting, and have their own personalities that are not dictated solely by plot. The sort of triangle relationship between Casey, Evan and Cappie is dynamite gold. At times, I was the rooting champion of team Casey/Cappie, but then Evan acted like a genuinely cool dude, and I was suddenly not too broken hearted if Cappie and Casey got together. The point of that example is that these characters are so well written, you’re as torn up as they are.

As the character we’re first introduced to, I can’t say I’m particularly a fan of Rusty Cartwright, although it may have more to do with the performance by Jacob Zachar. Yes, I know I said everyone in the show did stellar work, and they do; all I’m saying is that Zachar just needed to up his game a bit more. I do appreciate Rusty wasn’t your usual dweeb science nerd who knew absolutely nothing about social life and was a walking embarrassment, and I was glad he wasn’t a completely naive individual. There are just aspects of Zachar’s performance that I didn’t appreciate. In fact, the only other qualm I have about Chapter One deals with Rusty, as well. In the middle portion of these episodes, Rusty engages in a relationship with ZBZ sista Jen K. How he gets to that relationship was ill-handled, at least as far to my liking. Relationships are built on mutual attraction, whether it is physical or personality-wise. In Rusty and Jen K’s situation, there was attraction on Jens part, but from everything I saw from Rusty, he seemed more or less ‘Oh, this chick digs me? Cool. Alright, I like you, too!’ Before Jen reveals her feelings to Rusty, the science nerd is too enamored with the idea that he has a secret admirer and even wants Jen K to scram so ‘she doesn’t get the wrong idea.’ Watch the episode in context. Poor writing, poor execution. That being said, however, I did enjoy their relationship, and am frankly surprised at how far the relationship progressed in such a short amount of time. The Jen K surprise in the discs final episode was truly a surprise, and a truly disappointing loss.

Casey Cartwright, as said above, is a gal who seems to have everything together. However, similar to so many young people, when ones in a relationship for a long time with no end in sight, the future looks to be a scary place, and her contemplation and fear results in some juicy plotlines that involve Cappie. Perhaps moreso than any other character on the show, Casey’s story from the pilot to the tenth episode is the most engaging and honestly written. Well, I sorta take that back. Speaking as a quasi-Cappie type of person, Cappie’s feelings towards Casey and his sorta moodiness is very, very honestly written and beautifully acted. Anyhow, Casey also has a awesomely written trustworthy friend in the form of Ashleigh (Stevens), a gal stuck in one of those controlling relationships that she doesn’t recognize. As Casey’s arch nemesis, Rebecca Logan (Vadsaria) threatens to break her and Evan apart, and also conspires to usurp Casey at all opportunities. Although Rebecca most certainly filled the bitch quota in the beginning, cracks in her armor around Cappie is beginning to reveal a softer side that’s far more intriguing, and offers some rich storytelling opportunities for Season 1.5.

Dale Kettlewell is a boy of God, and acts as the comedy relief. Brought to life by the ever talented Clark Duke (SEX DRIVE), I wouldn’t be lying by saying that a smile forms when Dale’s onscreen. Also not to be missed is Rusty’s friend Calvin Owens (James), a dude wrestling with how to best come out of the closet with his pledge buddies. His storyline hits high points, then low points, and finishes off with a high. I still don’t have a firm grasp on his character, but I can’t necessarily say I don’t like him, either. As for Evan Chambers, Casey’s boyfriend, he can be a pompous ass at times, while also being a rather cool cat here and there.

Alright, digging the characters? If this summary sounds like bollocks, I totally blame it on the fact it’s being ghost written by someone way less cool than, um, Andy. Anyhow, the main point is that I strongly encourage a screening of GREEK. The characters are fun, as I said, and three dimensional. The scripts are top notch, jokes and dramatic moments mixed with real honest writing, making for a enjoyable forty-two minutes well spent. If, like me, you’re tiring of the fun nature of the outlandish plotlines in your favorite primetime soap operas – ONE TREE HILL, GOSSIP GIRL – then I strongly implore GREEK. It’s a breath of fresh air, and really, any Cappie-centric episode makes everything worth it.

However, new thought: since I avoided GREEK like the plague, much like I’m doing with MAKE IT OR BREAK IT, should I give that thing a chance? I mean, I tried SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER, but then it just provided proof that Lucifer is indeed real and corrupting the young. So, dilemma. Anyway, point: GREEK is awesome. Watch now. Every episode of the first three seasons are available now.

Oh, and there's a guest appearance by Charisma Carpenter! See? I save the best news for last.


Rachel said...

Well you know my feelings on this brilliant show already. Cappie is by far one of my favorite male t.v. characters now.

There shall be more Charisma Carpenter, if you haven't seen those episodes already. It's funny because I saw her on this long before I started Buffy/Angel. So she's Cordelia to me now, but I wonder what I'll think of her when I go back and watch the show.

My biggest issue with the show is the timing. They should've worked out a better schedule, like one season equals one sememster, instead of the first 10 episodes being a semester, then the second half of season one only goes through Spring Break. The first semester of Casey's senior year seemed to last a season and a half. It just doesn't work, though I'm sure it's just to drag out the seniors' time on the show.

Andy the Time Lord said...

Cappie is bloody awesome. Potential role model - except for the whole drinking and partying excessively part.

I have five or four episodes left of the season - sadly wicked schoolwork has prevented me from catching up on my Hulu Que. With Cordy already in mind when she showed up, I couldn't help but notice the bossy similarities, most specifically the stuck-up BUFFY version of her. But I'm proud of Charisma - she may not be all that prominent now (except for three scenes in EXPENDABLES), but post-ANGEL, she seemed to get a lot of work (ever watched her stint on CHARMED?).

Eh, timing like that plagues a lot of shows. I agree they probably should have planned it better, depending on how sure they were on a full-season pick-up, but at least it's not as bad as, say, THE O.C. and ONE TREE HILL where they look like thirty year olds playing early twenties. So...yippie?