A Dramedy Still Needs Conflict
Another show that seems to be on its way out is “Greek”, which gets what looks like a half-sized fourth season this fall/winter. It’s a favorite show of mine in part because it is a serial dramedy set on a college campus dealing with age-appropriate issues.
But it does have several flaws which may help explain why it’s heading out the door. It’s on ABC Family, so while a lot of the episodes center around teen romance or drinking, it’s ultimately a conflict-free zone. None of the drama and points of consequence were long lasting – a fraternity or sorority rivalry and a love triangle or two are simply not enough to sustain a show in the hour-long format.
It also suffered from its ABC Family affiliation. This meant most of the guys and girls, even the ones you wanted to label as the antagonists, were ultimately sweet and lovable in their own ways and those who had unresolvable conflicts disappeared or graduated conveniently.
Lastly, its demographic focus limited its appeal. The show seemed to center on a bunch of upper-middle-class kids. No economic worries of any notable kind except when the really rich kid swore off his trust fund or when the lone non-greek in the show decided to fund his own (graduate-level?) engineering project to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars by being a part-time hasher. I’m sorry, but that’s just not realistic.
And don’t get me started on how a show about college really showed them in class or had them talking about majors or even had them encountering the 90% of the campus that wasn’t Greek.
But really, it all comes back to drama and conflict. I think part of Greek’s problem is it had none, not any that actually mattered. They had a potentially huge and satisifying confict in the middle of season one, when the Dean decides to crack down on the Greek system. But he lifts the restrictions so quickly that that potential is wasted for a short-term story arc.
I’m not saying Greek had to be any different than it was, as it already was a good show. But I think it could have done just as well in the half-hour format, or with a bit more structure and focus to the overall story.
Its effort to blend sitcom and drama and put them in the context of middle-class college kids in fraternities and sororities was entertaining, but ultimately unsatisifying. Kind of like a Diet Coke of television – just one calorie, not enough to last.