Nearly 200 coeds glisten and giggle on the bright green of a college football field at Greek‘s fictional Cyprus-Rhodes University. The boys are there to compete for the title of Zeta Beta Zeta’s ”Mr. Purr-fect,” the girls to oversee these Olympic-style athletic trials. All the happy, shiny students are having the time of their lives…until the director of this episode yells ”Cut!” and the young revelers are ordered to be as quiet as a study hall. ”Don’t sing, don’t talk, don’t laugh with your buddies,” a crew member with a clipboard and headset roars. ”Thank you.”
Making a show about college party life is serious business, but it’s paying off for Greek, which tells the tale of golden sorority girl Casey Cartwright (Spencer Grammer) and her nerd-turned-frat-boy sibling, Rusty (Jacob Zachar). When the ABC Family dramedy (which just began its second season on Monday nights at 8 p.m.) debuted last summer, it finally helped the cable network achieve coolness after nearly six years of unsuccessfully struggling for cred with fizzles like Beautiful People and Falcon Beach. Not only did Greek‘s first season routinely hit No. 1 on iTunes but it also drew a wider audience to the teen-targeted net, averaging 1.1 million viewers and becoming its most-watched show ever among 18-to 34-year-olds. The show solidified the vision network execs had been moving toward with modestly successful soap Wildfire and breakout teen sci-fi drama Kyle XY. ”Greek is definitely the show that defines the network,” says network president Paul Lee. ”It makes us a real home for quality stories. People want to be part of this network now.”
Greek creator Patrick Sean Smith says the key for him was putting on a party that viewers would actually want to attend. Inspiration for the show came not from angsty teen TV dramas like Beverly Hills, 90210, but rather from happy-smiley ’80s movies that ”weren’t heavy on consequence and emotional scarring.” Translation: Sex and underage drinking don’t always have to come with downer lessons. But, he swears, ”we’re not trying to shock people. We deal with sex and drinking in an honest, real way, but never in an exploitative way.” That’s not to say that the program hasn’t been willing to push the envelope a bit. Grammer was (pleasantly) shocked, for instance, that her character dealt with cheating boyfriend Evan (Jake McDorman)— caught on cell-phone video! — by cheating herself with her ex, Cappie (Scott Michael Foster): ”I thought it was such a bold thing to do.”
This season will include — you guessed it — more hookups (Cappie with Casey’s nemesis, Rebecca) and lots and lots of beer bashes…despite tough new campus restrictions (hey, that’s what basements are for). Rusty, meanwhile, will refocus on brotherhood in the wake of his breakup with Jen K. (Jessica Rose), while Calvin (Paul James) will try to fit in after being outed. And Casey will juggle a string of post-Evan suitors while struggling to get her sorority back in working order after its secrets were revealed in a scandalous school-paper exposé.
The 12-episode arc will end with the students of Cyprus-Rhodes heading off to spring break, making these kids as ageless as Bart Simpson; a full calendar year after the show’s debut, they still won’t have even taken their end-of-the-year finals. Is this ABC Family’s sneaky way of keeping their newfound cool factor far longer than four years? ”We’re in the eternal happiness of a TV show,” Lee says. ”We’re not going, ‘Oh my God, what happens when they leave?’ Let’s hope it lasts 25 years.” Now, that’s a party.