Sunday, August 23, 2009

DVD review: GRΣΣK: Chapter Three

ABC Family’s GRΣΣK (rated TV-14 for language and suggestive dialogue) returns for a third “chapter” (covering the last couple of months of the school year) with this DVD release. This impressive television dramedy series, focusing on the social lives of a group of college students at the fictional Cyprus-Rhodes University, picks up where Chapter Two left off, as school resumes after Spring Break in Myrtle Beach.

All the cast regulars are back: popular junior Casey Cartwright (Spencer Grammer), her geeky younger brother, frosh Rusty (Jacob Zachar), Cappie (Scott Michael Foster) Casey’s ex-boyfriend and president of Rusty’s frat, Kappa Tau Delta; Evan (Jake McDorman), Casey’s ex-boyfriend and president of the WASPy Omega Chi house; Ashley (Amber Stevens), Casey’s best friend and roommate; Rebecca (Dilshad Vadsaria), Casey’s Zeta Beta Zeta little sister and Cappie’s girlfriend; Cal (Paul James), Rusty’s gay friend who is legacy at Omega Chi; Dale (Clark Duke), Rusty’s Southern Christian roommate.

As in the first two chapters, the campus’s Greek social life is the focus of the show although this time Cappie does actually take a make-up exam. Episode 1, “Brothers and Sisters,” details the events of Greek Week, with Rusty and Cal struggling to maintain their friendship in spite of their rival fraternities, and Rebecca struggling to regain favored status in the wake of Spring Break’s drunken wet t-shirt contest. In episode 2, “Crush Landing,” Casey is upset to find out that Evan has hooked up with Frannie, her sorority Big Sister and soon-to-be archrival, but is soon distracted as she and Ashley compete for the attentions of the same guy.

Episode 3, “Let’s Make a Deal,” is one of the strongest episodes: Omega Chi hosts a Casino Night fundraiser and Casey, Rusty and Rusty’s new hunky-but-geeky RA, Max, band together to help Ashley win enough money to get out of her credit card debt. Cappie feels uncomfortable when Rebecca tries to buy him expensive presents; and Evan chafes at the restrictions his parents have put on his trust fund. In “Gays, Ghosts and Gamma Rays,” episode 4, Cappie deals with his and Rebecca’s break-up; Casey finds herself with a crush on Max; Cal’s grad student boyfriend, Michael, takes him to a gay bar; and Rusty tracks down an elusive, never-seen Kappa Tau brother.

Episode 5, “Pledge Experience,” shows Casey dealing with having a non-Greek boyfriend for the very first time, and finding it both refreshing and awkward. After Cal and Michael join Evan and Frannie for a swanky dinner, Cal is concerned that his Big Brother has sold his soul for his trust fund – and Frannie is fanning the flames.

In Episode 6 (“See You Next Time, Sisters”), Rusty’s engineering dorm holds a blow out party at Kappa Tau and Casey, Ashley and Frannie attend the national Zeta Beta Zeta convention. Episode 7 (“Formally Yours”) covers the Spring Formal season for the Greek system, with Casey worrying about Max’s ability to small talk with the ZBZs and Rusty bemoaning the fact that he didn’t go to his high school prom. Episode 8, “The Popular Vote” shows the Casey vs. Frannie ZBZ presidential race heating up, while Rusty and Cappie try speed-dating. Episode 9 is “Three’s A Crowd,” in which control-freak Casey has difficulty handing over the ZBZ reins to the new president.

Episode 10, “Hell Week,” sets things up for Chapter Four with a bunch of cliffhangers: Max gets accepted to grad school in California and Casey gets a summer internship in Washington D.C.; Frannie continues her gold-digging and manipulative ways; Rusty worries that he won’t make the final cut to be initiated into Kappa Tau; and everyone awaits a big decision by Rebecca.

GRΣΣK continues the realistic character development begun in previous Chapters (something that other shows might want to take notes on – I’m looking at you, Heroes). These kids are growing in genuine ways that make sense, making both good and bad decisions and learning (or not) from them. This is not so much college as students’ parents want to see, but the characters in this show have to deal with real stuff: drinking, sex, time management, peer pressure, jealousy, heartbreak. Kudos to ABC Family for mixing good messages in with all the fun stuff.

There are not much by way of extras in the 3-disc DVD set: a blooper reel (which consists of people flubbing lines and giggling; several commentary tracks; and a “20 Questions with the Cast of Greek”.

After having watched three Chapters of GRΣΣK on disk now, I find I have some real affection for this show, catching myself smiling fondly at the onscreen shenanigans. I’m not entirely sure I’m going to be able to wait for Chapter Four to come out on DVD – luckily, the next Chapter comes out just next week, airing August 31 on ABC Family Channel.

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