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March 21, 2007 |

By Seth Freilich | TV | March 21, 2007 |

“October Road.” I didn’t watch it when it premiered last week (ABC, Thursdays at 10 p.m.), nor did I TiVo it. But ABC’s got the premiere episode online, and one or two people asked for a review. Well, ask and ye shall receive. But I’m gonna serve up one of them real-time reviews, because they’re far quicker and easier to write than a real review and, quite frankly, I suspect this show doesn’t warrant the blood, sweat, and tears necessary for a full-blown review.

Now there are only a few things I know about this show as I write this, prior to getting into the viewing: 1) I know it’s about a young writer returning to his hometown. 2) I know it stars Bryan Greenberg as that writer. To me, he’s only been “that dude who was in that HBO show about struggling actors, ‘Unscripted’” until about two weeks ago when, hungover as hell, I watched Prime. So now I know him as “that dude who was in that HBO show and that shitty Uma/Streep movie.” 3) I know it also stars Laura Prepon, who I always liked well enough on “That ’70s Show” and who, more importantly, I saw get very drunk once at one of my favorite L.A. bars. 4) I know that word since the show’s airing has been less than stellar.

Well, let’s see if word has been correct.

0:00: It’s the summer of 1997 and we open on a shot of Kurt Cobain. Is this a hint to the viewers that they’re ultimately going to want to kill themselves rather than watch this show?

0:01: “Goodbye sex, huh? It’s always the best kind.” What? No it’s not! Here’s my list of the top five types of sex — feel free to debate this in the comments: 1) post-break-up sex; 2) make-up sex; 3) sex with the TV Whore; 4) angry sex; and 5) welcome home sex. Goodbye sex doesn’t make the cut at all, ‘cause it’s just too sad and weepy.

0:02: Hang on! I think Tom Berenger is playing the dad of that dude who was in that HBO show and that shitty Uma/Streep movie. I’ve loved Tom Berenger for a long time, even though he’s almost never repaid me in kind with his choice of roles. I suspect he won’t be giving me a reach-around here, either.

0:03: Hugs and kisses goodbye as the kid is getting ready to leave on a six-week road trip and so, obviously, cue the tambourines of Boston’s “Don’t Look Back.” This is doubly clever, by the by — the song itself applies to the situation and it’s by Boston, and he’s in a Boston suburb. But the best part of this is totally that his friends are playing air band to the song, though I’m not sure how they’re actually hearing the soundtrack. Amazing.

0:04: Ten years later, and he’s living in NYC and, son of a bitch, a second shot of Kurt Cobain. OK, seriously ABC, we get it. “October Road” is to viewers as shotgun is to Cobain.

Here’s the deal: This dude hasn’t been home in 10 years, but there’s a one-day intensive writing seminar in his hometown, which is obviously how we’re going to get him back. He’s getting this invite rather last-minute because John Irving dropped out. So let me get this straight. This kid wrote one book over the course of 10 years, he’s suffering total writer’s block on his second book, and he’s second only to John Irving? I wish they’d post this magnificent piece of literature on ABC’s website.

0:05: Dude! Now the soundtrack is playing a Collective Soul tune. That actually makes me really happy, and I’m being 100 percent serious here. The underlying shots of him in NYC, realizing that it just might be time to go home, however, are not making me so happy.

0:07: I’ve seen his book’s title in about five different shots now, and because they used a “hip font” for it, I still have absolutely no idea what the book’s called. Turtle and Snake Drum maybe?

…sigh. He just went to the apartment he lived in several years ago when he wrote the book, and the wise Latino lady who lives there gave him advice that made him totally realize that he totally has to go back home for that teaching gig. Totally.

0:08: There’s an online commercial for Lexus right now, and they’re dropping a car from the sky by a helicopter, to plummet to a quick and messy demise. A metaphor for this show?

0:09: So that dude who was in that HBO show and that shitty Uma/Streep movie is driving home (his character’s name is Nick or Nicky) and we’re now getting our third musical montage. Nine minutes. Three musical montages. I’ll play it safe here and guess that there will only be three more before the show is done, although they’re on pace for about 14.

So two of Nick’s old friends are talking, and one of them mentions “having sex with girls you don’t really like.” I totally left that off my top five list!

… Although some might argue that if you change the line to “having sex with guys you don’t really like,” it would be synonymous with “sex with the TV Whore.”

0:11: A fat kid says to Nick: “My mom read your book. She said it was mostly crap.” Nobody speaks the truth like fat kids.

0:12: Nick’s old bedroom has been changed into a den, and he seems surprised. Dude, you were gone for 10 years. Was Dad supposed to keep the room just as it was, as if you died? When Nick sees Laura Prepon’s character again (oh yeah, when we met him 10 years ago, she was the one he was having goodbye sex with), is he going to expect her to have entered a nunnery because she couldn’t get over the depression of his departure?

0:14: Some dude just mentioned that Nick, with his book, “dropped turds all over his hometown.” So I guess the book was based on his life growing up or something like that, and folks aren’t happy it. Which means one aspect of the show is surely going to be about him making amends to all the people he wronged with his brilliant novel. I don’t know how I feel about this — it could be a decent idea in the right hands, but I’m highly suspicious about whether these are those right hands.

0:15: Well, his first meeting with Laura Prepon is — surprise, surprise — awkward. See, she’s pissed that he never came back because he gave her a goodbye present, “as in ‘goodbye, I’m no longer in your present.’”

0:17: She’s got a kid named Sam. Asks Nick: “How old is Sam?” And wouldn’t you know he’s about to turn 10. But wait, didn’t Nick leave 10 years ago? Does that mean … ? “And don’t worry, he’s not yours.” Well there’s not even a question about this little lie — the only question is whether we find out in this first episode that the kid is his, or whether they drag it out for a couple of episodes. I’d say it’s 60/40 that we’ll know by the end of the hour.

0:18: Another musical montage. It was a little short, although it did include a cut to a flashback, so I’m counting it. But we’ll just call it a half of a musical montage. So we’re at three and a half right now.

0:19: Ah. The book is called “Turtle on a Snare Drum.” I wasn’t too far off with “Turtle and Snake Drum.” And I gotta say, I kind of like my version better. When I publish my book of TV Whore thoughts, maybe that’s what I’ll call it: “Pajiba Presents the Thoughts of the TV Whore: Turtle and Snake Drum.”

0:21: Well, Nick’s lecture really didn’t go so well. He fled the room in a nauseated panic and came back to find the room empty, except for one cute brunette who he tells that “all the Garrett men suffer from nut allergies.” I could make a crass joke here about having some nuts of my own that he could suck on, but I’m too classy for that kind of thing.

0:22: The brunette actress is awful. And while I’m talking about acting, having now seen “that dude who was in that HBO show and that shitty Uma/Streep movie” in a couple of things, I’m pretty comfortable in declaring that he’s basically a one-note actor. He does that one note — the out-of-place cutesy doof — well enough, but one note is really only going to get you so far. And I suspect he’s getting awfully close to the end of the line.

0:26: His stupid friends are now 28, and they still play air music. In fact, they actually have “jam sessions.” And … what? The stereo magically has “The Boys are Back in Town” all cued up, perfectly apropos of the situation. I declare shenanigans.
This scene would seem to suggest that, earlier, they actually had a stereo or something when they were air jamming during his departure, but I really don’t remember seeing anything like that. And actually, I rather like it better if they were jamming to the soundtrack — it’s a nice meta touch. But I’d probably be giving way too much credit to the writers.

0:26: Some dude walks by the house and sees them “jamming.” Not sure if we met him back in 1997. “Dorks,” he utters. But then he looks longingly. See, ‘cause he wants to be a dork too!

0:27: Nick’s an idiot. He brings up Laura Prepon’s kid again, to his brother this time, saying how he “couldn’t help but do the math.” Actually, strike that. I think the writers think the viewers are idiots, and feel the need to stuff this 10-year “coincidence” down our throats. In any event, his brother says that some dude from Boston is actually the kid’s dad. But the smart viewer will realize that he learned this from her, which means she’s just telling lies. “Some guy from the city.” That’s like the high school nerd saying he got laid by some chick who lives in Canada. (That’s what Anthony Michael Hall’s Brian claimed in The Breakfast Club, right? A chick he met at Niagara Falls or something?)

0:28: OK, we finally have our first use of the word “wicked” as an adjective. Now the show can be declared truly authentic. (Though I suppose I should confess that even I use the damn word now and again, try though I might to avoid it.).

0:29: … Umm, wow. Nick’s book is pretty terrible. So check it — Laura Prepon’s character is named Hannah. And there’s “a pathetic hometown girl left behind” in the book named Anna. And Laura Prepon is pissed:

Page 44, third paragraph, I committed it to memory. ‘Anna possessed the faded blue sadness of a Roy Orbison song. The kind of gal who was quite sure one day Richard Gere would come by in his dress whites, pick her up, and carry her out of this factory girl existence.’ Sounds like you nailed me to a click.

I repeat what I said before — I totally want ABC to publish this book online!

0:31: Music’s getting louder! Could this be another music montage? … Damn. Just a transition between scenes. I’m running out of time to reach my prediction of six. This is the only aspect of the show I’m currently invested in.

0:32: So that dude who secretly wants to be a “dork” is friends with some of the other guys, and his name is Eddie. And it seems that Nick wrote something really terrible about Eddie in the book. I almost want to find out what he said about Eddie.

0:33: There’s a “funny” friend, who looks kinda like a young Flea (the bass player from Red Hot Chili Peppers, not the critter), only his jokes really aren’t very funny. He was the guy who talked about having sex with girls you don’t like. And now he’s confessing to Nick that he banged one of their friend’s wives. So he’s not just funny, he’s classy, too.

0:35: You know, when you’re reviewing a bad show, you always hope for that one bit of truly bad dialogue you can quote. I had that book quote earlier, but that’s not the kind of thing I’m talking about. This, however, totally is: So that guy Eddie is roughing up some college-kid writer, and of course Nick steps in to try to defuse the situation (and to explain two references, Nick’s publisher made him use the pen name of “Nicholson,” and “The ‘Ridge” is how the cool kids refer to his hometown):

Eddie: Is that who you are now? Defender to the doofs?
Nick: Look, I know I got a lot to set right by you, but this is crazy.
Eddie: I don’t know what you’re talking about, Nicholson. What I do know is, in your big triumphant return, you seem to have forgotten which side of October Road you belong on. Well, I’m going to remind you how we roll here in the ‘Ridge. It ain’t much, but it’s tight.

“It ain’t much, but it’s tight.” I’m ashamed to say that, in a million years, I’m not sure I could ever write a line of dialogue quite that brilliant.

0:37: Says Nick: “It’s like, once I stayed away, staying away became the way.”

0:38: Eddie says he missed Nick, but he can never be his friend again. Damn it, what did Nick write about him?

0:39: Never mind. Who gives a shit about that when there’s a full-blown musical montage waiting for me?! That’s four and a half. Can we get one and a half more in the next three minutes? Come on, “October Road,” hook a brother up.

0:40: OK, I’m pausing this here, and I honestly don’t know what’s coming, but I need to make this prediction. So Nick’s driving montage has him cross paths with that kid, who’s out delivering papers. They’re talking now, and I will lay my life on the line in betting that he’s about to learn that the kid has a nut allergy. See, because they’ve now made two references to the fact that all the guys in Nick’s family are allergic to nuts (you’ll remember one of those from earlier, when I debated making a crass joke, but chose to take the high road because I’m all class). And, un-pause.

BAM! Peanut allergy! It took all of about 20 seconds to get there.

0:42: And we end with one last song, though, sadly, it’s not another musical montage. Damn it — I fell short by one and a half.

As a postscript, I have a favor to ask of my lovely readers. If any of you keep watching this thing, when they finally reveal what Nick wrote about Eddie, please share it in the comments. The writing in this episode was sufficiently brilliant that I suspect the Eddie stuff is going to be magnificent. But I just can’t bear to tune in simply for that one potential moment of high unintentional comedy.


Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television columnist. His reviews aren’t much, but they’re tight.

Dude, You Like So Totally Can't Go Home Again

"October Road" / The TV Whore
Mar. 21, 2007

TV | March 21, 2007 |

Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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