Blogging the TCA, Part 4: “Greek”

This is a live blog from the bi-annual Television Critics Association conference.
See more TCA live blogging here.

This morning it’s all about ABC Family, specifically Greek
and Kyle XY, two teen-focused ABC Family shows. I’m kinda interested
in Greek, which follows a geeky freshman and his popular older sister
in the fraternity and sorority system at a fictional college. Its main drawback
it that it has fairly lame and stereotypical female characters except for the
lead, Casey (Spencer Grammer), but it’s got a gay black teen
Calvin (Paul James) and they handle that pretty well.

I do wish they had the cast of Lincoln
Heights
here instead of Kyle XY, though. As soon as I think
this, an ABC Family spokesperson comes out on stage and announces the second
season premiere of Lincoln Heights: September 4th. It’s like my thoughts
are beaming straight to ABC Family! Some teasers for the new season of Lincoln
Heights
in the press release: Cassie (Erica Hubbard) and her relationship
with pretty boy Charles heats up after being on hold for the summer while she
was at Art Camp, and Cassie’s younger siblings Tay (Mishon Ratliff) and Lizzie (Rhyon Brown) may have a "budding
romance." (Not with each other, obviously. Eww.)

Back to the event at hand: the Greek panel. The promo for the show
previews a lengthy upcoming scene of Calvin coming out to Rusty. It’s actually
an impressive scene, but I won’t give away too many details because Michael’s
going to save it for his Best. Gay. Week. Ever. column on AfterElton.com tomorrow. [Updated to add: get the scoop on this now here.]

As ABC Family President Paul Lee talks about the success of
their shows on iTunes, and online, the cast of Greek files on stage, and their
average age looks to be about 20. Their eager, youthful exuberance emanates
from the stage.

The first question is about Calvin and how his character’s chameleon-like quality
to get along with different groups relates to "his gayness." Creator
Sean Smith gives a great answer, which again, I’m letting Michael
keep for his column.

Now the wiseass questions begin: a reporter wants to know if any of them have
actually been to college. Much laughter. Only one of the cast says yes. Yikes!

A reporter mentions that this show opened up a great conversation between her
and her teenage sons. Various members of the cast enthuse about how college
is about trying new things, building a new support system since you’re away
from your family for the first time, experimentation, etc.

I raise my hand to ask my first question at the conference. Why, aside from
Casey, are all of the the show’s female characters so stereotypically bitchy
and backstabbing, while the male characters are much more three-dimensional
and redeemable? Sean responds with an answer about wanting to introduce the
stereotype of the sorority girl and then show the depth beneath that, show them
as more well-rounded, etc.

So basically, they’re backstabbing bitches with hearts of gold?

Clark Duke, who plays Rusty’s nerdy Christian roommate on the show, but is
perhaps more famous for his web series with Arrested Development‘s
Michael Cera (George Michael Bluth) the clarkandmichael.com,
jokes that he’s going to play a woman next season. Gee, that’s so original!
What a knee slapper!

Moving on … Sean says he’s always been a big fan of The WB shows, but he
wanted to create a show that was less angsty and more about confidence.

Amber Stevens, who plays Ashleigh, volunteers
that the cast are all friends and hang out off-set, that they frequently have
"girls nights" where they watch Mean Girls and eat cookie
dough. Yeah, that’s what my "girls nights" are like, too.

The moderator asks what it is like for most of them to be on their first series.
Amber yammers on about how much fun it is. Dilshad Vadsaria,
who plays evil Rebecca, says she’s just trying to take it all in, this is what
she’s always wanted to do, it’s a joy to go on set and do something she loves
to do, etc.

Someone asks why, if the show’s such a hit, they don’t just air it on ABC.
ABC Family President Paul Lee rambles on about how it’s a defining
show for the network, then somehow turns it into a pitch to download the show
on iTunes. They’re also pitching their social network virtualrush.com.
Lee says this demographic doesn’t really care where/how they watch the show,
they just want to watch it. Smart guy.

Exec producer Shawn Piller talks about how the pilot episode
was downloaded a gazillion times on iTunes. Some of the reporters are now playing
a drinking game every time someone on the panel mentions iTunes. Okay, by "some"
I mean me.

A reporter says acting is "wish fulfillment" and asks if any of the
actors were similar to the characters they play when they were high school.
Finally, a substantive question!

Spencer says she was a loner and read a lot in high school, which "makes
me sound kind of creepy" (laughter), so playing the "it sorority girl
is kinda fun.’ Scott Michael Foster, who plays Cappie, makes
a funny joke about how growing up doing theater in Texas didn’t exactly make
him popular, so getting to play the cool frat guy on Greek is "absolutely
nice."

Amber gushes about being the president of her high school, where all she did
was plan events, so she can relate a lot to her character, and by the way, her
high school prom was in this room. She’s so cute and young, I want to loan her
my letter sweater and carry her trapper-keeper to class for her.

Jake McDorman, who also grew up in Texas, says he was the
only football player/actor in the school, which led to "a lot of awkward
conversations with the coach."

Someone asks Spencer what her Dad thought of her decision to go into acting,
and I look at her last name again and realize she’s the daughter of Kelsey
Grammar
(Frasier). How did I miss that?

Spencer says, "it’s a really tough business, especially for women …
you’re always sort of a sexual object, and my dad wasn’t really about me being
that, but of course he encouraged me to follow my dreams and be happy."
I’m actually kind of impressed with her answer, and her poise. I guess that’s
what happens when you grow up with a shrink for a father.

The Greek panel ends, and the Kyle XY panel begins. The only
interesting comment made by a panelist in the first few minutes is a comparison
drawn between Kyle revealing his origin to his parents to Buffy telling her
mom she’s a slayer.

Matt Dallas is wearing a suit with a stubble, and looks close to 30. I didn’t
check, but I bet he has a belly button, too.

I have to go to a lunch now, and I just can’t pretend to care about this panel.

Back this afternoon with Men in Trees and Private Practice!

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