KYLE XY Second Season & GREEK Chapter Two DVD Reviews

     March 13, 2009

Reviewed by Bob Lydecker

For anyone who remembers ABC Family in its earlier incarnation, the network’s original series Kyle XY and Greek are likely something of a revelation. There are no “very special episodes” where characters ponder the morality of “doing it” – these shows treat the realities of adolescence and young adulthood as exactly that – realities. Kids are going to have sex. They’re going to do it with the wrong person, for the wrong reasons, and they’re going to regret it afterward. This is not the WB, nor even the CW. This is ABC Family and, like FX and TNT before it, its carving out a niche for innovative drama that aims higher than the banalities on broadcast television.

Kyle XY kicks off its second season with a bang as much of the freshman year’s backstory is blown up to give the new batch of episodes more room to maneuver. The central mystery of year one – what is the nature of the titular belly buttonless genius found naked in the woods – is quickly resolved as the viewer learns that Kyle (Matt Dallas) was an attempt to create a superior human by gestating the body for 16 years rather than nine months. The writers quickly return Kyle to his adopted home with the Tragers, easily one of the best acted families on TV. Throughout the 23-episode season, Kyle ping pongs between the mundane challenge of romantically pursuing the girl next door and the more outré exploration of his mysterious origins. Along the way, things are complicated by the advent of Jessi XX (Jaimie Alexander), another product of the experiments that created Kyle, but forged from a much darker set of life experiences. After clearing the decks of first year detritus, the show does an excellent job of developing its central concept across the season. April Matson, as Lori Trager, and series newcomer Magda Apanowicz, as Andy Jensen, deliver standout performances amongst an ensemble devoid of any weak links. The only downside to this release is that the series was cancelled after shooting wrapped on season three, so the likelihood that Kyle’s story will have a satisfactory conclusion is doubtful.

Unlike Kyle XY, Greek’s second DVD release fails to present all the episodes that have aired since the last commercial issuance of episodes. This is somewhat tedious as “Chapter One’ of Greek featured an entire semester and Chapter Two only half that amount of story time. Something tells me the folks in marketing wanted to squeeze out another set of episodes at the same price point. Nevertheless, this second batch of installments (which seem to have been filmed alongside the first wave of episodes) does an excellent job of developing the characters established earlier on. Freshman Rusty Cartwright (Jacob Zachar) is much more at home with life in the Kappa Tau fraternity while his elder sister, junior Casey Cartwright (Spencer Grammer), is settling into her role as president of the Zeta Beta Zeta sorority. This familial axis allows the audience into the world of Cyprus-Rhodes University, which serves as a microcosm for the adult world. The excellent casting evident in the first season continues to yield fruit herein as the players really dig into their characters. Many a revelation is to be found in the flashback episode that establishes the origins of the upperclassmen and the 12-episode run concludes with Spring Break in Myrtle Beach where the melodrama takes on a booze-infused fever pitch.

Both series are presented in the 16×9 enhanced 1.78:1 aspect ratio, which is far superior to their compromised television presentations. The 5.1 sound tracks are not terribly bold, but represent music and occasional atmospheric effects well enough. Kyle XY excels in the supplemental by offering a wealth of deleted scenes, audio commentaries and featurettes that explore both behind the scenes of the production as well as the ideas behind the shows science fiction concept. Greek is slightly stingier, with only commentaries, a making of feature for the flashback and a music video from the show’s regular musical performers, the Plain White Ts. While Kyle XY seems set for a premature end – with only the 13-episode third season (airing now) left to go, the kids of Cyprus-Rhodes would seem to have a chance at a full ride, with at least another semester on the books. Whatever the case, ABC Family is living up to its slogan by providing several “different kinds of family.”

On a scale where “A” indicates the pinnacle of the medium, “B” stands for an extraordinary example, “C” represents 90-percent of what’s out there, “D” indicates a sub-standard effort, and “F” means an abomination that should at least result in the sterilization of those responsible…

Kyle XY: The Complete Second Season scores a B+ while its DVD presentation merits a B+. Greek: Chapter Two merits a B+ for the show and C for presentation.

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