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TV Series Review

Populated with brothers, sisters, troublesome fathers and alma maters, ABC Family's Greek fits right in with the cable network's don't-expect-traditional-values slogan, "A new kind of family."

The teen dramedy revolves around students at fictional Cyprus-Rhodes University, particularly Cartwright siblings Casey (Spencer Grammer as the blond queen bee of hoity-toity sorority Zeta Beta Zeta), and her nerdy little brother, Rusty (Jacob Zachar, a pledge at Animal Hou—, um, Kappa Tau).

Both Casey and Rusty are consumed with Greek life. Classes are little more than a daily annoyance interrupting the real course of study: getting drunk, having sex and navigating the bewildering maze of Cyprus- Rhodes' social structure. Casey works hard at balancing friends, enemies and rival suitors while working her way toward the house presidency. Rusty, meanwhile, adjusts to college life with the help of fellow freshmen Calvin (a gay pledge for blue-blood frat Omega Chi) and Dale (Rusty's geeky, frat- and sorority-hating Christian roommate).

The show dabbles in well-worn stereotypes, but a number of characters that started off as two-dimensional caricatures have evolved into living, breathing humans. Even Dale, despite his space rocket pajamas and ill-timed moralistic rants (both definite no-nos in the Greek ethos) became a semi-likable character last season without losing his faith.

There also have been worthwhile messages exalting friendship and warning about easy-to-get credit cards. But they're secondary to Greek's main purpose of showcasing and glamorizing debauchery on and off campus. Sex is central to the Cyprus-Rhodes lifestyle. People often swap bedmates, and a girl becomes what Rusty's frat bros winkingly call his "fun buddy." There are taped sex acts, homosexual kisses, scenes featuring lovers writhing in the sheets, and a slew of double entendres. Sorority sisters parade around in bikinis and other skimpy outfits. One nearly takes part in a wet T-shirt contest.

Marijuana gets a mention now and then, but booze is the drug of choice at Cyprus-Rhodes. Characters are always a) hunting for drink, sometimes with the aid of false IDs; b) drinking or c) drunk. I suppose Greek deserves credit for showing consequences (lots of vomiting, hangovers, etc.), but other than Dale, no one seems to ponder whether this lifestyle might be hazardous.

"Greek does not present itself to the teenage viewer as a warning against the darkest aspects of the fraternity system: the date rapes and life-imperiling drinking," said New York Times television critic Ginia Bellafante. She's right. Instead, it treats hedonistic trial-and-error as a rite of passage.

"Screwing up is what college is all about," says the head of Kappa Tau. "Learning from your mistakes and all that." The Associated Press recently reported that between 1999 and 2005, 157 college-age youth literally drank themselves to death. Sometimes adolescents don't get the chance to learn from their mistakes—something Greek chooses not to mention, lest it spoil all the fun.

Episodes Reviewed: May 19, 26, June 2, 9, 2008

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Paul Asay

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