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"Greek" Chapter Three DVD Review

Buy Greek: Chapter Three on DVD from Amazon.com Greek: Chapter Three (2008)
Show & DVD Details

Creator: Patrick Sean Smith / Directors: Michael Lange, Patrick Norris, Linda Mendoza, Gil Junger, Fred Gerber, Melanie Mayron, Sandy Smolan

Regular Cast: Clark Duke (Dale Kettlewell), Tiffany Dupont (Frannie Morgan), Scott Michael Foster (Cappie), Spencer Grammer (Casey Cartwright), Paul James (Calvin Owens), Jake McDorman (Evan Chambers), Amber Stevens (Ashleigh Howard), Dilshad Vadsaria (Rebecca Logan), Jacob Zachar (Rusty Cartwright)

Recurring Characters: Aaron Hill (The Beaver), Derek Mio (Wade), Danny Weaver (Ben Bennett), Zack Lively (Heath), Michael Rady (Max Tyler), Adam Crosby (Pickle), Steffany Huckaby (Beth), Marisa Lauren (Brenda), Max Greenfield (Michael)

Notable Guest Stars: Charisma Carpenter (Tegan Walker), Jesse Williams (The Hot-Ness Monster), Kathryn Harrold (Mrs. Chambers), Senta Moses (Lizzi), Carole Potter (Paula Baker), Dan Byrd (Kirk), Lauren Conrad (Herself), Kevin Kirkpatrick (Officer Huck)

Running Time: 440 Minutes (10 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound (English)
Subtitles: English, French and Spanish; Not Closed Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99 / Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)
DVD Release Date: August, 2009 / Chapter 3 Airdates: August 26 - October 28, 2008
Clear Amaray Case with Cardboard Slipcover

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By Kelvin Cedeno

College life has been depicted time and time again in motion pictures. Like high school, it's able to comment on the various social standings and personal interactions of life but on a small enough scale to make it all palatable. It's surprising that the world of television doesn't tap into this more often. When it does, college is usually just an atmospheric backdrop for more conventional soap storylines. Few actually use Greek letter organizations as a springboard for weekly storylines. One of the more notable entries of late is the ABC Family original series "Greek".

Despite an ensemble cast, the show leans slightly towards Rusty Cartwright (Jacob Zachar), a geeky, socially awkward freshman who becomes a pledge for Kappa Tau Gamma, the fraternity with the worst reputation on campus. His older sister Casey (Spencer Grammer) is the leader and potential president of Zeta Beta Zeta, the top sorority around. With Rusty doing all he can to be accepted at Kappa Tau, and Casey struggling to keep ZBZ from buckling under its catty members, the polar opposite siblings work together to face their college dramas.

Rusty (Jacob Zachar) finds out that being a pledge involves several unpleasant experiences, including a spotlight interrogation with Chinese finger traps. Ashleigh (Amber Stevens) and Casey (Spencer Grammer) are stunned when they realize they're both after the same guy, otherwise known as the Hotness Monster.

Such complications include Casey's competition with rival Frannie Morgan (Tiffany Dupont), who is currently dating Casey's ex-boyfriend Evan Chambers (Jake McDorman). Evan so happens to be head of the prestigious Omega Chi Delta and has a nemesis of his own - the party animal Cappie (Scott Michael Foster), leader of Kappa Tau Gamma.
Despite the rivalries between the two houses, Evan's best friend Calvin (Paul James) is a good friend of Rusty's. Whether it's house against house or member against member, there's always some sort of combat to be had.

All of the character connections may seem awfully confusing, but "Greek" plays them all out in a surprisingly natural way. This is true even for someone just joining in for the third "chapter" (on DVD, the series is broken up by semester rather than season). With such a diverse cast of characters, the show should be either overwhelming in the amount of arcs juggled or underwhelming in how they're executed (or both). Instead, while certain threads are given more prominence than others, everyone is given substance and a chance to shine. All of the actors onboard, most notably Scott Michael Foster as Cappie, put forth enough effort to make their characters likable (or unlikable, if need be). This can sometimes be no easy task as even characters the audience should root for make aggravating decisions, but the actors portray those in a way that's easier to swallow than what's on the page.

The main title for "Greek" showcases the grand-but-disheveled Kappa Tau Gamma house. After locking the Kappa Tau members out of their own house, the pledges cautiously rally together to see where everyone has gone off to.

Teen dramas often end up feeling too much alike and succumb to petty retreads of well-known plot elements. "Greek" tiptoes towards this at times, but it actually manages to restrain itself and even comes up with unique premises. What comes as a relief is the show's unwillingness to be pigeonholed within a genre. Just when a scene veers in the direction of a petulant CW drama, an outrageous Animal House-style bit will come to ease tension. The juxtaposition of both should be jarring, but they're blended together in a smooth manner. Thankfully, there's more humor on board than just frat antics, as the dialogue can be unpredictably witty and snappy at times.

"Greek" is made up of story and character elements found in other programs, but it infuses enough originality and craft to become its own entity. At first it can be difficult getting involved with the characters as most come across as awfully self-centered. Eventually, though, the charm of the actors is enough to win viewers over. There may be television shows out there that deliver more laughs or more gripping drama, but "Greek" distributes enough of both to entertain. That's certainly more than the majority of teen-centered television programming currently on the air.

Greek Week certainly plays to everyone's strengths, as evidenced here by the cheese puff-eating competition. Ashleigh (Amber Stevens), Max (Michael Rady), Casey (Spencer Grammer), and Rusty (Jacob Zachar) look over at a cheating player that's robbing them of their earnings.

Disc 1

1. Brothers and Sisters (43:44) (Originally aired August 26, 2008)
The school year commences after spring break with Greek Week,
a vaguely Olympian competition between houses. Rusty and Calvin's friendship is threatened by the event while Rebecca's wild stunts shake up the ZBZs.

2. Crush Landing (43:56) (Originally aired September 2, 2008)
Casey and Ashleigh search for dates to invite to the ZBZ Crush Party and find their tastes far too similar. Rusty attempts to break into the room of Max, the new RA, for Senior Stockades.

3. Let's Make A Deal (44:18) (Originally aired September 9, 2008)
When Ashleigh finds herself in massive credit card debt, she and Casey learn from Max how to count cards in order to win money at Casino Night. Cappie grows increasingly uncomfortable at Rebecca's eagerness to buy him everything.

4. Gays, Ghosts, and Gamma Rays (43:45) (Originally aired September 16, 2008)
Rusty tries to learn about all the current Kappa Tau members but notices a mysterious one that no one wishes to speak about. Casey finds herself drawn to Max despite his aloofness towards her.

A ZBZ get-together just isn't complete without a few snide remarks from Frannie (Tiffany Dupont) to Casey (Spencer Grammer). Ashleigh (Amber Stevens) and Rusty (Jacob Zachar) share a gloating dance at the formal as a means of putting a mocking Evan in his place.

Disc 2

5. Pledge Allegiance (43:44) (Originally aired September 23, 2008)
On a night involving more humiliation than usual, the Kappa Tau pledges decide to revolt. Casey suppresses her troubles with Frannie in order to appear deeper and more intellectual for Max.

6. See You Next Time, Sisters (43:52) (Originally aired September 30, 2008)
Frannie makes a proposition at a ZBZ convention that would allow her to run for president once more. The Kappa Tau House violates too many health codes, so the members rent it as a party house to pay for repairs.

7. Formally Yours (44:00) (Originally aired October 7, 2008)
Appalled that Rusty never went to his own prom, Ashleigh tries to make the ZBZ Formal a special night for him. Casey and Max go together, but she's so caught up in competing with Frannie and Evan that Max feels awkward.

8. The Popular Vote (43:49) (Originally aired October 14, 2008)
The ZBZ election brings out scads of dirty laundry as Casey and Frannie run against each other. Rusty attempts to find a girlfriend via speed dating but, much to his chagrin, runs into an ex-flame.

The morning after can be an eye-opening time as Cappie (Scott Michael Foster) inexplicably finds himself sandwiched between Wade (Derek Mio) and The Beaver (Aaron Hill). Noticing the special privileges he's getting apart from his pledge brothers, Calvin (Paul James) confronts Evan (Jake McDorman) on the issue.

Disc 3

9. Three's A Crowd (44:19) (Originally aired October 21, 2008)
Kirk, Dale's best friend from high school arrives on campus, but Rusty is less than enthralled. Ashleigh's presidency gets off to a rocky start when both Casey and Frannie each try to sway her in their direction.

10. Hell Week (43:48) (Originally aired October 28, 2008)
The houses engage in Hell Week, a time devoted to torturing pledges in order to see who'll last. Casey is bowled over by a turn of events that will make her choose between Max and her career.

Fraternity Gear at GreekGear.com

VIDEO and AUDIO

"Greek:" Chapter Three comes to DVD in the 1.78:1 anamorphic ratio of its HD broadcasts. The results are more alone the lines of average than one would assume. Grain is rampant throughout all the episodes, though it's harder to detect in bright outdoor scenes. The image is also a bit soft, even during close-ups. To be sure, the presentations are perfectly adequate, especially when it comes to the warm color timing, but it doesn't do much to truly excel.

The same is true of the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtracks. Outside of some minor ambience in the rear, the sound field is relegated almost exclusively towards the front. Speech is natural and mixed well with the musical cues. Effects occasionally diversify things, but not to a great degree. The tracks meet expectations for a show of this nature.

Amber Stevens compares and contrasts herself with her character as Michael Rady and Spencer Grammer chime in during "20 Questions with the Cast of 'Greek.'" Jacob Zachar and Scott Michael Foster have difficulty keeping straight faces during a key scene on the blooper reel. Rusty and Dale dream about the future on the animated main menu found on each disc.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

A few supplements are given to this third DVD outing, starting with three audio commentaries. The first, on "Brothers and Sisters" features executive producers Shawn Piller and Anne Kenney, executive story editors Jessica O'Toole and Amy Rardin, and actors Dilshad Vadsaria and Jake McDorman.
The second, on "The Popular Vote", contains executive producer Lloyd Segan, writer Matt Whitney, and actors Amber Stevens and Paul James. "Hell Week" holds the last commentary, this time with creator/executive producer Patrick Sean Smith, writer Roger Grant, and actors Spencer Grammer, Scott Michael Foster, Jacob Zachar, and Michael Rady.

All three tracks lean more towards entertaining rather than informing, especially the third one. That said, some enlightening tidbits do emerge, ranging from shooting locations to deleted scenes (which, annoyingly, are no where to be found in this set). The actors all dominate their respective tracks, and while they tend to comment more as jokey onlookers than as people involved with the production, they do manage to keep the tracks amusing.

The first video feature is "20 Questions with the Cast of 'Greek'" (16:20). All 10 main actors from the series, broken up into four groups, answer a series of questions about both themselves and the show. Most of these are pretty banal ("What's the worst pick-up line you've ever had used on you?"), but the actors come up with cheeky enough answers that make this piece far more diverting than it has any right to be. One only wishes all 10 participants were in the same room as that would probably lead to even more sparks.

"Blooper Reel" (3:10) is made up of the types of flubs and antics that have become commonplace on DVDs. Most of it is pretty ordinary, though one can't help but laugh at an up close and personal bit between Jacob Zachar and Scott Michael Foster that takes up a quarter of the reel.

Disc one opens with trailers for "Samantha Who?": The Complete Second Season, "Ugly Betty": The Complete Third Season, The Proposal, and Blu-ray Disc. Disc three's "Sneak Peeks" section offers additional ads for Adventureland, "Life on Mars," Cheri, "Lost": The Complete Fifth Season, and Extract.

The main menu for each disc shows various Greek letters flying by, each with a different moment of the show contained inside as the instrumental theme plays. Submenus are static, but continue the alphabet theme with more music.

All three discs of "Greek" feature color artwork with various cast members and come in a clear Amaray case. The transparent nature of the casing allows for the cover insert to be double-sided, showing a cast image with disc breakdowns inside. A cardboard slipcover with an embossed logo tops all of this.

In a rare moment in the series, Rusty (Jacob Zachar) tells off Cappie (Scott Michael Foster) when Kappa Tau policies go against his standards. Exasperated by Max's (Michael Rady) avoidance of her, Casey (Spencer Grammer) confronts him to find out what's going on.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

After some initial misgivings, "Greek" becomes fairly engrossing. It has a nicely diverse cast that helps make the characters more lovable, the writing is smarter than expected, and the storylines feature some unique aspects to them. The Chapter Three DVD presentation for both the video and audio is serviceable, and while the supplements aren't terribly revealing, they are admittedly enjoyable. The show earns a recommendation to those who are seeking a well-rounded teen dramedy, though it's probably best to rent Chapters One and Two first.

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Reviewed August 24, 2009.



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