When you think of the Greek fraternity system in college, the words "now there's a heartwarming Disney TV series" don't immediately come to mind.
After all, one doesn't normally associate underage drinking and sex with Disney shows.
Which is why it is a smart idea for parents to see what Disney's basic cable channel, ABC Family, is selling in the new tween and teen series, "Greek," from Patrick Sean Smith ("Wildfire," "Summerland"). It premieres at 9 p.m. Monday.
"Greek" has the usual Disney mix of family, humor, life lessons and moral dilemmas. But it doesn't avoid experimentations with alcohol or sex, which may make the series more adult and honest about college life than some parents would prefer. After all, the channel appeals to children considerably younger than college age.
Speaking of parents, Kelsey Grammer has to be a proud one since the series stars his attractive daughter, Spencer Grammer. She plays Casey, a pretty blonde who is heavy in sorority politics and considers her extremely bright younger brother, Rusty (Jacob Zachar), such a liability that she has denied his existence for years.
"Guys in fraternities are hot and don't study engineering," Casey cruelly tells her brother.
To her horror, Rusty has chosen the same college, Cyprus-Rhodes, where he can alternately embarrass his social-climbing sister and protect her.
Casey is a popular girl with a rich boy friend and fraternity leader, Evan (Jake McDorman), who is considered a catch even though he is ethically challenged.
Besides protecting his sister and getting good grades, Rusty seems determined to have a good time and overcome stereotypes. He cluelessly believed that might be easier once he left home. Zachar does an excellent job playing a naive freshman who doesn't immediately understand that the college world is divided into cool and uncool camps. Rusty is the show's most sympathetic and likable character, a guy who wants to change his image without changing his ethics.
His roommate, Dale (Clark Duke), is a fellow engineering nerd who has what could be an added collegiate burden. He is deeply religious. The character could become a stereotype, but Dale eventually gives his roommate some excellent advice that illustrates he isn't only around to make fun of his values.
The good-looking and racially diverse cast also includes Amber Stevens as Casey's best friend, Ashleigh; Paul James as one of Rusty's new friends, Calvin; Dilshad Vadsaria as Rebecca, a flirtatious senator's daughter and prize pledge; and Scott Michael Foster as Casey's fun-loving, ex-boyfriend, Cappie.
The pilot episode sets up all the relationships with some good humor. However, don't kid yourself. This is college, time for experimentation. The students don't always pass the ethics tests they face and seem to accept each other's serious moral lapses surprisingly well.
One imagines that not all parents will endorse all of the show's behavior, but at least like almost all Disney productions, "Greek" has its heart in the right place.
Old Home Week II . . . Not surprisingly, the recent Old Home Week column mentioning Western New Yorkers working in TV led to a few more people checking in. Gregory Puchalski of Lackawanna reports he was a scenic artist and staff painter on Spike TV's "The Kill Point." And he added that Cort Hessler of Buffalo is the stunt coordinator.
'Comforts' canceled . . . To those who asked: CBS canceled "Creature Comforts," the comedy that briefly played this summer.
Review: 2 1/2 stars (out of four)
9 p.m. Monday on Disney