Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"Greek" And Why All Television Shows About College Fail


Last night was the premiere of ABC Family's "Greek." Minutes into the show, I started to get some deja vu. I had seen this type of programming before: new kid in a new setting, a fight with the arrogant and established pretty face, popularity contests, running for president of an organization, a house party, etc. It's the same type of story you'd find in "Mean Girls," "The O.C." or "Dawson's Creek." And that's exactly what "Greek" is. It's nothing more than a high school drama that happens to be set in college. Rather than trash "Greek" for that, I give the writers credit for coming up with a slightly innovative approach to a college show.

You see, all television shows about college are destined to fail. The main problem is maintaining audience interest. There are three kinds of people in the potential audience:
1) Those that plan on going to college
2) Those that haven't gone or have no plans to go to college
3) Those that are currently attending or have already been in college.
How can a college show entertain any of these people?

The first group is the easiest demographic. They're curious about the college lifestyle and will accept any depiction of drama and debauchery. But given the content constraints of television, let alone that "Greek" is on ABC Family, this depiction will be watered down. This group will eventually wise up and realize that they can find better material in R-rated and even PG-13-rated college movies.

The second group is similar to the first group in that they have no experience of the college lifestyle. However, they're less likely to connect with the show because they inherently have less interest about college. They'll be watching for other reasons, like character relationships. They'll realize that they can find the same thing in a program with a more interesting hook to the individual, like a police or hospital show.

The third group is the trickiest and most critical. They are able to watch the show and compare it to their own experiences. They are able to recognize the flaws of using college as the premise for a show. College campuses are fairly unique, especially when compared to the nostalgic view of the standardized public high school. Concepts that make college enjoyable, like independence and social networking, are hard to capture on a show. The common ground individuals in this demographic will share have to do with final exams and roommates. And those aren't the most interesting of topics to watch on television. They will react like the other two groups by finding better material in other movies and genres.

This is a losing battle for any show. Unfortunately, "Greek" makes it even more difficult by limiting their audience to fans of teen drama. I'll watch a couple more episodes before giving the show a real review. But given examples set by shows like "Saved by the Bell: The College Years," "Undeclared," and "Undergrads," I doubt "Greek" will last long enough for me to do so. At least the characters look like college students.

1 comment:

that one dorky girl said...

i agree mostly. when i was watching it last night, i liked laughing at the stereotypes, but there was nothing relatable for me.

and you're right...they will only appeal to fans of teen drama. but maybe that's why they put it on abc family and not regular abc. i think it'll do well just cuz it's a stupid teen drama in the summertime, when those high schoolers have nothing better to do than watch tv