TV Review: Poorly plotted 'October Road' winds to a bumpy dead end

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Now, all is clear: When ABC refused to preview "October Road" (10 p.m. tomorrow, WTAE) at January press tour -- standard operating procedure for any new series -- it seemed like a missed opportunity on the network's part. Now I suspect they were just trying to save face.

Bob D'Amico/ABC
Bryan Greenberg stars as a writer who returns to his hometown and a negative reception.
Click photo for larger image.

'October Road'

When: 10 p.m. tomorrow, ABC.
Starring: Bryan Greenberg.

"October Road" is perhaps one of the most clumsily plotted, illogical drama pilots to be produced in years. Too much of it simply makes no sense. And it's a shame, because the show wastes an extremely likable lead in star Bryan Greenberg ("One Tree Hill") -- despite some dialogue that makes his character sound like the world's biggest snob -- and strong supporting performances from Laura Prepon ("That '70s Show") and Penny Johnson Jerald ("24").

The story begins as popular author Nick Garrett (Greenberg) returns to his hometown 10 years after leaving and writing a best-selling book that features characters that are too close to his real-life hometown friends for comfort. Never mind that a short-lived 2002 Kevin Williamson WB series, "Glory Days," used the same premise; the lack of logic in "October Road" is of its own making:

Is it realistic that Nick has not been home in 10 years to see his father and younger brother, Ronny (Jonathan Murphy)? I don't think so, especially given how young Ronny was in 1997 when Nick left and how the family was still mourning the death of mom. How cold would Nick have to be not to see his family for 10 years?

Are we really to believe in flashback scenes that Nick and 17-year-old girlfriend Hannah (Prepon) were allowed to share a bed in the home of Nick's father, known as The Commander (Tom Berenger)?

When Nick returns and friend Owen (Brad William Henke) introduces him to a boy without revealing the identity of the boy's mother, would any real person say, "Stay tuned"? Wouldn't the person immediately send out a warning that the mother is someone his buddy was once intimate with?

Would an author, brought back to his hometown by the local college, really bolt from a lecture? And later get the dean (Jerald) to give him a job teaching at the school? And if Nick's roman-a-clef was a big hit, where is the media coverage from the local newspaper when he does return home?

Is it believable that neither Nick's brother nor his father, with whom he stayed in touch by phone, never told him that his ex-girlfriend got pregnant and had a child less than a year after Nick left town 10 years ago?

Writers often complain about the notes they receive from network executives, but it seems like "October Road" writers Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec and Scott Rosenberg got away with murder on this one. Someone at ABC was asleep at the switch instead of trying to keep this pilot from ending up in shambles.

As inexpertly as "October Road" is set up, there's still something charming about the small-town setting, Nick's doofus friends and plot twists that emerge in subsequent episodes. None of it is particularly remarkable -- "October Road" is certainly less polished than the series it temporarily replaces, "Men in Trees," which returns next month -- but if you can get past the initial lapses in common-sense storytelling, "October Road" has some decent elements.

I suspect, though, that after the first hour, any viewers who show up will conclude they're in for nine miles of bad "Road." Actually, ABC ordered only six episodes, so really there's only a half-dozen miles of initially-bad-but-slightly-improving-"Road" to come.


TV editor Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Ask TV questions at www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Q&A.


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