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Thursday, November 22, 2007

International Television: Can ABC drama "October Road" rate well while on Monday nights?

TV Review: 'October Road' Season Two
ABC drama can't seem to get over the ridge

By Rick Porter
November 21, 2007

"October Road" returns for its second season on ABC Thursday, and not much has changed.

For those of you who fell for the characters in the show's brief run last spring, that's probably good news. From this couch, though, it's frustrating: There are pieces of a good show here and there, some well-observed moments and a couple of relationships that feel pretty real. But, like a number of its characters, the series feels like it's stuck in the same place.

If "October Road" were a different kind of show, you could argue that that's part of the point -- the place they've always known is as much a trap as it is a haven. But "October Road" doesn't seem to have that on his mind; it's a small-town soap opera with a star-crossed romance at its center. Existential crises are not the first order of business.

There is a bit of movement in that central romance as season two begins, more or less where things left off last spring. One-hit-wonder novelist Nick Garrett (Bryan Greenberg), having professed his love to childhood sweetheart Hannah Daniels (Laura Prepon) last season, is trying to come to terms with Hannah not returning those feelings. Which, in Thursday's season premiere (the show moves to its regular Monday-night home next week), he does by heading back to New York with best buddy Eddie (Geoff Stults).

The two are ostensibly chasing after Owen Rowan (Brad William Henke), who split town after learning his wife was having an affair with another of the boys, Ikey (Evan Jones), and is fast approaching the point of no return. But it also feels, more than a little bit, like Nick isn't quite willing to face up to a life in Knights Ridge without Hannah.

There wouldn't be a show if Nick decided to stay in his fabulous New York apartment, however, so soon enough he and the boys are back home. Nick tries to settle into an academic's life, Owen avoids his wife and Ikey, Eddie and nice-girl bartender Janet (Rebecca Field) ponder going public with their relationship and Ray "Big Cat" Cataldo (Warren Christie) tries to rekindle things with Hannah.

In the three episodes ABC sent to critics, things don't go a whole lot further than that, and the show actually seems to struggle with a reason to keep Nick in town after Hannah rejects him. He pings aimlessly from one small atonement to the next, which in turn makes the show feel like it's at loose ends.

That's how viewers may end up feeling, too, after watching "October Road." The small moments that are good -- the budding relationship between shut-in Physical Phil (Jay Paulson) and the pizza girl (Lindy Booth), most scenes involving Field's Janet -- don't add up to a strong enough whole to make the weekly trip down this "Road" worthwhile.

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