Last night saw the end of ABC Family’s college based series, Greek, an hour long comedy drama that centered around the fictional Ohio college of Cyprus-Rhodes University and the likable students who attended it. The show was never a runaway success; it did better in its early seasons but ratings tapered off in its last two seasons. After a ratings surge at the end of its third season, ABC Family, much to its credit, decided to let the show run have 10 more episodes this winter. The series finale saw the central characters begin new chapters in their lives, the demise of a favorite fraternity house, one last stop at the local watering hole, Dobler’s, and the romantic leads, Cassie and Cappie driving off into the Ohio sunset, destination unknown.
I didn’t become aware of Greek until the opportunity arose to review one of its half season on DVD. From that point on, I fell in love with the series, created by Patrick Sean Smith. When the show came on the air in 2007, the heart of the show was incoming freshman, Rusty “Spitter” Cartwright, played by the likable Jacob Zachar. Rusty was a boy genius, a true geek, and in an effort to shed that image, he pledged the notorious Kappa Tau Gamma fraternity, an authentic animal house. Rusty was taken under the wing of Cappie (Scott Michael Foster) and shown the many ways of the world- of the ways of the world only consisted of drinking and scoring cute co-eds. This was done much to the chagrin of Rusty’s older sister, Casey, played by the lovely Spencer Grammer. She was the soul of Greek.
Casey was a member of one of the top sororities, Zeta Beta Zeta, and through the years she would become the chapter president and see her sorority sisters through some difficult times. Luckily, she had the support of her best friend Ashleigh (the adorable Amber Stevens) and the alliance of the politically motivated Rebecca (Dilshad Vadsaria). When the show began, Cappie and Casey were exes, but they were always destined to be together and we fans rooted for their relationship to work out. As I mentioned in the opening, they drove off together, so we can only hope that their love remains strong in the fantasy future.
There was a love triangle when the show began, involving Cappie, Casey and Evan Chambers (Jake McDorman) of Omega Chi Delta, a rival fraternity. The three characters were once best friends (as detailed in an early flashback episode), but the friendship fell apart due to immaturity and the fact that both guys had a thing for Casey. Throughout the four years of the show, these three fought and fell in love and in they end, friendship prevailed.
Friendship was one of the strongest themes of Greek, and it was a theme that any viewer, not matter what age, could relate to. Drawing inspiration from John Hughes films, Smith and his group of writers, producers and actors were always tapping into the spirit of those 80’s feel good movies, constantly throwing out references to the films either in dialogue, casting (Alan Ruck played the Dean of Student Affairs) or music selections. The friendships of these characters was never false. Their fights and reconciliations rang true of the same type of scuffles so many of us went through in our formative years.
What I loved about this show was its message of tolerance. Several of the characters on the series were gay, including one of Rusty’s best friends, Calvin (Paul James). He came out to Rusty and to Evan (his pledge trainer in Omega Chi) and the two men never batted an eye. If television has the power to influence and change the way people think, a light, fun show like Greek is a good place to start. Additionally, Rusty’s other best friend, Dale (the hilarious Clark Duke) began the series as a conservative Christian. Again, Rusty never judged him, even though Dale was quick to judge others. By the end of the series, Dale had changed. He had grown up and learned to be less judgmental. In the end, all of the Greek characters had grown and become better people. That’s what we hope will happen over the course of four years, especially in college.
Greek was one of the first shows I know that centered on the college experience and successfully showed it, warts and all. The network never shied away from the drinking and debauchery that occurred on campus. Sure, it was tamed down considerably, but the writers always found creative ways, often through double and triple entendres, to discuss sex I have to admit that I wasn’t the most faithful viewer of Greek. Episodes sometimes sat on my DVR for a week or two before I got to them. But whenever I finally set aside some time, a couple hours were spent (usually on Friday nights) catching up and having a great time. Greek was comfort food television. It was never emotionally stressful and it was never too heavy to burden the soul. Yet, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t quality television. Greek had the ability to inspire, lift your spirits and most definitely make you laugh.
It still can, of course. Each season is on DVD, and thanks to a deal struck between Disney (the parent company of ABC Family) and Netflixx, every season of Greek is streaming, including the final episodes. This summer, when I bored with zombies, meth dealers and adulterating ad men, when I’ve had my fill of procedurals and special effects extravaganzas, I think I’m going to set aside an hour each Friday night to revisit Cyprus-Rhodes University, to live through the college years one more time, and enjoy myself all over again.