AS SEEN ON: "Greek" takes on college complexities

by Leslie Adkins | 4/22/09 2:09am

I've often wondered what a television series about Dartmouth students might look like. I suspect that athletes and hippie artists would be depicted in one-dimensional stereotypes, while Dartmouth Outing Club members and politician types might be drawn with more complexity.

Members of Greek organizations, however, are perhaps most likely to be portrayed with broad-stroke oversimplifications. That's why I have to give the cable channel ABC Family kudos for its latest programming accomplishment: the series "Greek."

"Greek," which airs Monday nights at 8 p.m., is one of the most entertaining portrayals of Greek life on the small screen. Set on the campus of the fictional Cyprus Rhodes University, it has the feel of a teenage soap opera -- without the overly-dramatic pubescent angst.

This is family programming, so don't expect violence or explicit sex. There's still, however, plenty of beer and steamy hook-ups to go around. The show has all of the sorority gossip and fraternity rivalries that you would expect, plus one additional surprise: diverse and well developed characters.

Some problems experienced by characters in "Greek" are familiar: Should former sorority president Casey stick her neck out for the snotty Rebecca, who struggles with family problems?

Others deal with important issues: How does gay, black male Calvin come out to the mostly white, straight and upper-crust brotherhood of his fraternity, Omega Chi?

Selling a college series to audiences is difficult. Producers often skip ahead to that awkward after-college stage to attract the younger half of the coveted 18- to 49-year-old demographic (think "Friends"). Even the untouchable Judd Apatow's underrated 2001 show "Undeclared," which depicted the transition to college life, tanked halfway into its first season.

"Greek," however, is a compelling watch. I think Dartmouth's Greek organizations would be proud.