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One of our favorite shows returns on Monday. Let's see where we left off.

So ABC Family's Greek is one of the best shows on TV. Let's just get that out there now. It's funny, deceptively smart, and, especially considering the network it's on, has actual teeth. The show, about a Midwestern college's pleasant-but-vaguely-incestuous fraternity/sorority scene, presents sex, drinking, drugs and all manner of other undergrad Bacchanalia with an admirable looseness. Those themes are treated as plain truths about college, and embraced in a warm "the kids are drunk and hooking up, yes, but they're also all right" kind of way. But the best thing about Greek right now? It's coming back for its third season Monday night at 9pm.

One of the most ingenious things that creator Patrick Sean Smith and his crack team of writers did when mapping out the show was to take their damn time. With the exception of one character, bitchy ex-sorority queen Frannie, the writers haven't had to concoct strange excuses for why these people are still in college and never seem to get older. We're starting the fifth installment of episodes (seasons often take mini-hiatuses) now and the oldest characters--nice-girl sorority head Casey, messy but lovable floppy frat dude Cappie--are still in the first semester of their senior year. Which means that we could go, oh, maybe two more seasons after this one before we have to face an inevitable graduation goodbye. So, yeah, the show has an innovative and comforting pace, and yet so much happens!

Where we left off: Academic worries and love triangles and woes about the future all came to a head at the Brett Easton Ellis-homagey "End of the World" party. Casey wasn't feeling her relationship with adorable supernerd Max, especially when old flame Cappie was there in the corner looking all rumpled and painfully in love with her. So she dumped Max (just in time for actor Michael Rady to ditch the dork costume and go hunk it up over at Melrose Place), and threw herself at the foot of Cappie's love altar. But thinking she was just doing it out of some misguided sense of adventure or boredom, he shot her down. Or diiiiid he? The season ended with a cliffhanger, Cappie sitting on the frat's roof, contemplating his options.

Also unresolved were little brother Rusty's academic woes (he skipped a make-up lab to go party it up with his sorority pledge girlfriend); gay fratboy-athlete Calvin's heavy-breathing hots for his new equally-gay roommate; nerdy, purity-pledging, born-again Dale's increasingly physical relationship with his cougar landlady; and little lord Fauntleroy Evan Chambers' mounting worry over future and finances after giving up his hefty trust fund for a life untethered from his meddling WASP parents. So it was a mix of silly light-hearted stuff and genuine pre-post-college angst (what a big, comfy ledge to jump off of), all done with the same kind of chipper (but not chipper in a grating,Gilmore Girlsy kind of way) energy and slight oddballness that the show has had in spades since the beginning.

Now, I just watched a screener of the season premiere, and I won't ruin anything, but I will give a few hints. You have many things to look forward to! Things like a sorority song, a Canadian, and a really good running Star Trek: TNG gag. (The show's breadth of pop culture references is wonderfully diverse, jumping from space dorkism to Hillsian vapidity sometimes within only a couple of lines.) Some big questions are answered, other mysteries are deepened, and one wicked little surprise could change things in a big way for a supporting character. All told, it's boozy, biting fun. Just like college should be.*

*And yes, I realize that Greek is, at times, pure fantasy--fratboys are hardly ever that nice, sorority girls rarely that lucid and thoughtful--but I don't care. It's got one foot planted firmly in escapism, yes, but the other one is definitely in the realm of reality. Which, when you think about it, is sort of the ideal TV equation.
 
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