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[03/15/07 - 09:50 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "October Road" (ABC)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

OCTOBER ROAD (ABC)
(Thursdays at 10:00/9:00c starting March 15)

The network's description: "(from ABC's press release) "October Road" centers on the young, popular author, Nick Garrett, who is at a crossroads in his life. To get over his writer's block, he goes back to his hometown and must now face the family and friends he has avoided for the past ten years. Once back home on October Road, he quickly discovers that the circle of friends whose teenaged lives he wrote about have trouble forgiving him for leaving them behind, and that his ex-girlfriend, Hannah Daniels, may have had his child."

What did they leave out: We'll fill in the details shortly.

The plot in a nutshell: Nick Garrett (Bryan Greenberg), we're told, wrote the defining novel of his generation with his debut tome, "Turtle on a Snare Drum." The problem is he's having trouble coming up with a second. Fate then intercedes when an invite to teach a one-day course arrives from Dufresne College (a.k.a. "The Duf"), just outside his hometown of Knights Ridge, Massachusetts. The problem is - as the opening flashback reveals - he left town in a blaze of glory 10 years ago, leaving behind Harrah (Laura Prepon), the girl (almost) next door, and Eddie (Geoff Stults), his best friend/future business partner, among others. Oh, and then there's the fact said book was about how crappy they all were. Nevertheless, Nick's desperate for inspiration and returns home where he finds his father "The Commander" (Tom Berenger) and brother still stuck in the same routine. Conversely his friends have changed a little - Owen (Brad William Henke) has gotten himself a family, "Physical" Phil (Jay Paulson) has become a shut in since 9/11, Ikey (Evan Jones) is sitting on a huge secret - but not too far apart. (They still make time for weekly hairbrush jam sessions.) And like most old friends they give him a little crap about the book but have long since gotten over it.

Not so forgiving however are Eddie, who's taken to bedding every girl in town, and Hannah, who's taken up with the neighborhood douchebag, Ray "Big Cat" Cataldo (Warren Christie), not to mention got herself a wise beyond his years son Sam (Slade Pearce) whose... wait for it... birthday makes Nick a little nervous. They all (except Sam) want Nick out of town yesterday. Making matters worse - he torpedoes his teaching job - but not before making friends with an impossibly cool/beautiful/charming co-ed (Odette Yustman). But as this is the premise of the show, he does stick around, eventually landing a teaching job from the college's skeptical dean (the always great to see Penny Johnson Jerald). And as you'd expect, Nick's presence turns over plenty of rocks, including the reason behind him not coming back. Subsequent episodes see Nick starting to bond with Sam "About a Boy"-style while fractures quickly appear in Hannah and Big Cat's relationship. It's also when the supporting cast begins to shine, such as when Phil catches the eye of a cute pizza delivery girl (Lindy Booth) or Eddie finds himself attracted to a "Plain Jane" barmaid (Rebecca Field). And by the end of episode four, all the show's various deck chairs are firmly set up - only to have them shuffled.

What works: First and foremost, it's just nice to see a show other than "Entourage" that treats guys as "guys" rather than objects of the female characters' love and/or hate. (Bonus points for none of them being angst ridden.) More importantly, just about everyone gets both a sympathetic and unsympathetic point of view. Is Big Cat an asshole? Absolutely. But he also puts his own kids first and genuinely loves Hannah. Is Nick a nice guy? Definitely. But he's also something of a coward, unwilling to see anything through. And lastly - the hardest thing to do of all - it has a voice. Sure it's initially kind of silly - people are named things like "The Commander," "Big Cat" and "Physical Phil"; characters sometimes talk like they're in a book rather than real people; and well, they have a lip sync band. But by episode three when you learn what "rock the stadium of her heart" means, it all starts to grow on you and the show really starts to hum.

What doesn't: People are named things like "The Commander," "Big Cat" and "Physical Phil"; characters sometimes talk like they're in a book rather than real people; and well, they have a lip sync band. You can totally see why people might be initially turned off by the show. Have faith though, it gets really good. At the end of the day though, you either are going to fall for the characters or you aren't. Count me among the former.

The challenges ahead: The post-"Grey's Anatomy" Thursday, 10:00/9:00c time slot is both friend and foe to all that occupy it. Sure it'll initially get a lot of eyeballs to you but then you'll be judged by how much the "Grey's" audience does or doesn't like you.





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· FUTON'S FIRST LOOKS, THE (TFC)
· OCTOBER ROAD (ABC)









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