Greek: Chapter Three
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Ethan C. Stevenson (25th September 2009).
The Show

I feel a little odd jumping into the third chapter of ABC Family’s hit series “Greek” without a whole lot of previous knowledge about the program, but fear not for it was easy enough to pick up after about two episodes, and the show is not entirely foreign to me, having seen the pilot for free a few “semesters” ago on iTunes. I liked the pilot, but had other viewing priorities (mainly “House, M.D.” (2004-Present)), which resulted in “Greek” falling to the wayside for me, and I’m kind of sorry that it did as I have to admit that it’s mostly a charming, creative, well written and humorous show.

Season two returns us to Cyprus-Rhodes University and kicks off with brother and sister, Rusty (Jacob Zachar) and Casey Cartwright (Spencer Grammer), on much better terms than season past. Rusty is adjusting nicely as a pledge in the Kappa Tau house, while still dealing with the implications of rejecting the more prestigious Omega Chi Deltas. He’s also coping with his ultra-conservative, über-religious roommate Dale (Clark Duke), who’s a lot less insane this season, and the ever-increasing tensions he’s facing for keeping up his friendship with his best friend Calvin, a pledge in Delta house. Meanwhile, Casey is dealing with the fallout of the political bombshell that exploded inside the Zeta-Beta-Zeta sorority last semester, which caused the forced resignation of the previous chapter President (Tiffany Dupont), and is desperately trying to hold it all together as she serves as interim leader. Casey’s ex, President of the Kappa Tau fraternity, Cappie (Scott Michael Foster), takes Rusty under his wing, and after a stolen kiss during Spring Break with Casey, Cappie begins to wonder if the couples breakup was the right thing. Houses battle, college life is dissected and characters grow (in both good ways and bad).

The show is perhaps a little clichéd (okay, sometimes incredibly clichéd) when it comes its depiction of Greek Life (or so I’ve read and surmised) but as an outsider to the Greek lifestyle, I know not what rings true and what doesn’t, especially considering that my knowledge of said community is based purely on movies like “Animal House” (1978), “Revenge of the Nerds” (1984), and “Old School” (2003). Everything I’ve ever learned about fraternities comes from pop culture, and like everything you learn from the “moving picture box,” some of what you see is wholly exaggerated for entertainment value and some of it, well, isn’t. Regardless of its factual basis, all I know about “Greek” is that what the production crew churns out each week is highly entertaining television.

Witty dialogue, full of culturally (both pop and otherwise) aware references, drives the show to a spot above most other teen (or young adult) programs. Likewise, the acting is genuine from most and each character has a unique voice, made believable by those playing them. In the short 10 episodes (11 counting the pilot) of the series that I’ve seen, I’ve already started to connect with these fictional people, a testament to the quality of the overall production. Everything just sort of works with “Greek” and that is why I like it.

“Greek: Chapter Three” contains the first 10 episodes of the series’ second season (which began airing in late Fall 2008). Like most cable programs, ABC Family airs “Greek’s” seasons in two parts throughout the year; the first half (what is included here) aired between October and December of 2008, part two has not yet been released on DVD but finished airing in May of this year. The second half of the season will constitute the “Chapter Four” DVD set when it is released. Episodes included on this 3 DVD set:

“Brothers & Sisters”

Greek Week is upon the college community and tensions run high as a new semester begins. Rebecca (Dilshad Vadsaria) distances herself from her Zeta-Beta-Zeta sisters in a time of need while news of her father’s scandal sends her down a dangerous self-destructive path. Meanwhile, Rusty and Calvin’s (Paul James) friendship is strained as their warring fraternities compete for the top prize in the weeklong games.

“Crush Landing”

ZBZ throws their annual “crush party” but tempers flare in the house as Casey and Frannie’s (Tiffany Dupont) friendship falls apart over the latter’s relationship with the formers ex, Evan Chambers (Jake McDorman). Rusty thinks that he might be in the wrong major and his new RA, Max (Michael Rady), is no help when it comes to advice on what he should do. Finally, Cappie is at a loss with how to handle the distraught Rebecca who’s now dealing with the impending divorce of her parents.

“Lets Make a Deal”

Casino Night! A $2000 jackpot entices Ashleigh (Amber Stevens) and Casey to turn to Rusty and his new genius RA, Max, for help in counting cards at the blackjack table. With his beloved Ford Bronco on its last legs, Cappie also has his eye on the prize. All the while, Evan tries to come to terms with the surprisingly complicated and stringent fine print attached to his trust fund.

“Gays, Ghosts and Gamma Rays”

While studying for the “know your brother” test, Rusty investigates the story behind one of Kappa Tau’s most elusive members and may have gone too far in his search for the truth when he puts the whole house in jeopardy with his findings. Calvin is urged to explore and get more involved in the local gay scene by his new boyfriend (Max Greenfield), but when the two hit out for a night at the towns only gay bar Calvin runs into an old friend. Casey thinks that she may be falling for Max and asks him to tutor her in Astronomy, in order to see if he’s at all interested in starting a relationship.

“Pledge Allegiance”

The Kappa Tau pledges revolt against their brethren, waging war and barricading themselves inside the KT house. Evan uses Calvin’s relationship with Michael (Max Greenfield) to his advantage, trying to get a passing grade for one of his brothers in the latter’s French class.

“See You Next Time, Sisters!”

At a ZBZ National convention in Orlando, Frannie tries to introduce a bylaw that would allow her to be reinstated as the Cyprus-Rhodes Chapter President, while Casey does everything her power to make sure that bylaw fails to be enacted. During her scheming, Casey makes an acquaintance (and decision) that could alter the course of her life forever. Meanwhile, the KT house is in trouble after they fail a surprise safety inspection by the fire marshal, and the Honors Engineering floor looks like they won’t be having their annual banquet because all of the halls are booked up. Rusty, the ever vigilant go between, convinces Max and Cappie to enter into a mutually beneficial business agreement and the Kappa Tau house becomes nerd-party central when the engineering students invade the building. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s” (1997-2003) Charisma Carpenter guest stars, reprising her role as Taken Walker.

“Formally Yours”

The ZBZ house is throwing their spring formal and new couple Casey and Max decide that they should go together in order to solidify their relationship. With the KT formal cancelled and having never been to a “prom,” Rusty embarrassingly gets invited to his sisters party, where he and Ashleigh bond. Rebecca decides to take a break from sorority life, skipping the dance, and mistakenly reconnects with Cappie.

“The Popular Vote”

It’s time for the Zeta-Beta-Zeta election and Frannie and Casey play dirty. The house is divided as the two battle it out for votes, smearing their opponents names in the process. Cappie and Rusty enter into a speed-dating event sponsored by the volleyball team. Unfortunately for Rusty, he meets an old ex.

“Three’s a Crowd”

Disparaged by the fact that’s he’s become known for his monogamous ways, Cappie seeks three-some-ship at KT’s “70s Party.” Meanwhile, the transition of power isn’t going as smoothly as planned within the ZBZ house, as newly elected Chapter President Ashleigh (with the help of Casey) battles Frannie for control of the sorority. As Rusty and Dale prepare to part ways, with the school year ending and Rusty moving into the KT house, Rusty fears that Dale’s new roommate and old church friend may have a drug problem.

“Hell Week”

Season Two comes to its half-point break with a bang. Their first year of college is coming to a close and that means the pledges are ready to be initiated, but complications arise for Rusty, putting his place in the KTT house in jeopardy when he disappoints his Brothers. Casey and Max wonder if their relationship can survive long distance when Max gets accepted to Caltech and Casey gets a internship in Washington DC. Lauren Conrad makes a guest appearance via a dream sequence, where Casey asks for her advice on what she should do. Frannie resigns her active status, leaving ZBZ to start her own new sorority, taking half the members with her.

It’s actually not all that often I find myself liking shows that I enter “late in the game.” More frequently, I give a show a try on the recommendation of a friend and then give up; it’s too hard to try and catch reruns or find the time to rent previous seasons on DVD, which will give me back-story. Very few shows grab me like this one did. Although I might be over selling it, I don’t care; “Greek” won me over in just a few episodes, and hope I’m charmed by previous (and later) works of the shows writers; “Greek” is one program that I’ll be seeking out on TV and DVD when I have some free time. Here’s hoping that the show can stay fresh and likable, as it grows older.

Video

Hope you like your grain thick and chunky because this 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, sourced from Super16 (16mm) film elements, although accurate to the intended style of the show, is far from what I’d call reference standard definition. But, even considering the shows gritty, low budget aesthetics, I see very little wrong with this DVD. High contrast imagery brings some noticeable, appreciable depth to the picture and bold, bright colors help add a little “pop.” Some scenes are little soft and low-lit scenes suffer from crushed blacks and grainier than usually textures, but this is hardly what I’d call terrible, and detail is fairly okay. Surprising for standard definition MPEG-2 encoded DVD, although the grain is heavy and ever obvious, it’s fairly well compressed and the picture upconverts decently without introducing a whole lot of unneeded noise and artifacts.

“Greek” has extremely competent and talented directors behind the camera, binging the show up to a high visual standard. How novel, a show on ABC Family that has interesting angles, tracking, handheld and long lens shots, all of which is far more appealing than the boring visual style of “The Secret Life Of The American Teenager” (2008). Although it’s not what would be considered universally attractive, I’d much rather watch hours of the grainy but stylized photography featured in “Greek” (especially considering its combined with a decent series) than the sleek, HD video sourced visuals of “that other show.”

Audio

Each episode is accompanied by an English English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix. The package contains a slightly above average soundtrack, espcially for lower budgeted cable programming. Rear channels are used very sparingly throughout, but occasionally get decent use, especially in party scenes with (music) and moments at Doblers Bar (ambient conversions and crowd noise) getting funneled towards the back of the stage. Overall this is a very unsurprising and uninspired experience but on the other hand, dialog levels, directionality and clarity are of acceptable quality, and this DVD matches the original HDTV broadcast so I also can’t fault it much. Don’t expect miracles and you’ll be happy.
Subtitles are offered in English, French and Spanish.

Extras

A more fulfilling round of extras than the other ABC Family set I last reviewed (“The Secret Life Of The American Teenager”), the distributor offers up three audio commentaries (one per disc), a featurette, blooper reel and some bonus trailers. All video based material is 16x9 enhanced unless otherwise noted.

DISC ONE:

Audio commentary on “Brothers and Sisters” with executive producers Shawn Piller and Anne Kenney, story editors (and episode writers) Jessica O’Toole and Amy Rardin, and actors Dilshad Vadsaria and Jake McDorman. It’s a roundtable type discussion where participants are constantly bouncing off of each other, divulging various anecdotes about the episodes, discussing shooting locations and the ins and outs of the episodes production. Everyone seems very down to earth, likable and to genuinely have a good time with each other (both on the show and off). This is certainly a decent commentary track and adds considerable value to the supplemental package.

Pre-menu bonus trailers for:

- “Samantha Who: The Complete Second Season” on DVD. 54 seconds, presented in 4x3.
- “Ugly Betty: The Complete Third Season” on DVD. 54 seconds, presented in 4x3.
- “The Proposal” on DVD and Blu-ray. 1 minute 29 seconds.
- "Disney Blu-ray" promo. 1 minute.

DISC TWO:

The only extra on disc two is an audio commentary on “The Popular Vote” with executive producer Lloyd Segan, episode writer Matt Whitney and actors Amber Stevens and Paul James. Although admittedly not as lively as the previous discs track, this is still informative and the commentators are good-natured.

DISC THREE:

Audio commentary on “Hell Week” with executive producer/series creator Patrick Sean Smith, writer Roger Grant and actors Spencer Grammer, Scott Michael Foster, Jacob Zachar and Michael Rady. The chapter finale gets another good track with everyone seeming very low key but constantly offering comments. I still think the first track is the best but this is a very close second.

“20 Questions with the Cast of: Greek” featurette is a somewhat dry, promotional-esque discussion with members of the cast about their characters, life on set, their school experiences, favorite foods… It’s set up in an interesting format: instead of going for the entire cast in roundtable (something I wish they had done, but the fact that they forgo the format is hardly detrimental), groups of 2 to 4 or 5 members answer from a couch and then are edited together for little Q&A blocks. Not awful, but not all that informative, this is probably something left up to less commentary inclined viewers (said commentaries are better places for information but I understand not everyone likes to listen to them). 16 minutes 19 seconds.

A blooper reel, running 3 minutes 9 seconds, has your regular collection of slip-ups, flubs and goofs. The image quality is about on par with the series itself but a surprising amount of anomalies appear infrequently (hairs on the frame and such) for such a new series (I would have expected none.)

Bonus trailers are for:

- “Adventureland” runs 1 minute 33 seconds.
- “Life on Mars” runs 1 minute 3 seconds, presented in 4x3.
- “Cheri” runs 1 minute 21 seconds.
- “Extract” runs 1 minute 43 seconds.
- “Lost: the Complete Fifth Season” runs 56 seconds.

Packaging

“Greek: Chapter Three” comes housed in a clear 3-disc amaray case with a cardboard slip-cover.

Overall

The Show: A- Video: C Audio: C+ Extras: C- Overall: B

 


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