You're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I was certainly judging the "October Road" DVD by its cover art. The back cover contains the phrase, "Can you ever really go home again?" If there were a "Top 10" for cliche lines, I believe that would have to be up there on that list. It's followed by an equally cornball line on the front cover: "Sometimes you've got to look back to see where you're going."
The show, while not without some serious flaws (one of which is some patches of dialogue that sound an awful lot like the stuff I mentioned on the cover), is thankfully a bit better than the cover art would lead you to believe. The show focuses on Nick Garret (Bryan Greenberg), a young man who leaves his girlfriend Hannah (Laura Prepon, of "That 70's Show") behind in their small town of Knights Ridge, Massachusetts in order to go backpacking in Europe (Prepon has now been left by boyfriend characters to go to foreign countries in two different shows.)
He tells everyone that he'll be back in a few weeks, which ends up being 10 years, as he wrote a bestselling novel (which sports the horrendous title of, "Turtle on a Snare Drum") on his experiences during his time away. His editor calls and informs him that he could do a speaking engagement in his hometown, and that it may help him with his current writer's block.
Needless to say, not everyone is exactly pleased to see him, especially given the fact that some of the people he grew up with inspired some of his best-selling work. There's also the matter of Hannah, who now has a child that's nearly 10 and is understandably upset that Nick left without a real goodbye. Best pal Eddie (Geoff Stults) is mad because Nick was supposed to go in on a business proposal with him before he left. When he returns home for the speaking engagement, he panics on-stage, but decides that he'll stay around for a while, getting a job at the school (by singing to the dean under her window in a scene that's just painful.)
As much as I wanted to like this series (which is like some sort of cross between "Ed" and the recent J.J. Abrams drama, "What About Brian?") and as much as I think it does have some potential, there's just something missing, as the first six episodes are quite uneven. While there are moments that I found engaging and performances that I liked, this is a series that really suffers from some cliched, unrealistic dialogue (one of many examples has a character actually yelling at Nick, "You seem to have forgotten which side of October Road you belong on!" - see, the other side of "October Road" is the "wrong side of the tracks" in town), a reliance on Big Emotional Moments and contrived plots that stick to soap opera conventions a bit much.
What saves the series are the performances, as Prepon and Greenberg offer engaging, appealing performances. Prepon was the best thing about "That 70's Show" and did a lot to hold that show together even in its weak final seasons. Here, she proves that she can handle drama fairly well. Tom Berenger is also very good as Nick's father. The cast is right, the writing is not. This show has a good concept and the actors are fine, but the writing needs to break away from being quite so predictable.
The short first season (the series was a mid-season replacement) is included here.
1. 1- 1 100 15 Mar 07 Pilot
2. 1- 2 101 22 Mar 07 The Pros and Cons of Upsetting the Applecart
3. 1- 3 102 29 Mar 07 Tomorrow's So Far Away
4. 1- 4 103 5 Apr 07 Secrets and Guys
5. 1- 5 104 19 Apr 07 Forever. Until Now
6. 1- 6 105 26 Apr 07 Best Friend Windows
VIDEO: "October Road" is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen by Buena Vista Home Entertainment. The presentation remained just satisfactory throughout the episodes. Sharpness and detail are passable, as the series continually appeared on the soft side throughout the show (although I suppose that's the sort of dreamy, soft-focus look it's going for.) No edge enhancement or artifacting was noticed, but the show's rich color palette did look mildly oversaturated at times.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is entirely dialogue-driven, with crisp dialogue and score.
EXTRAS: Some brief bloopers, a "making of" featurette, preview of season 2 and 6 deleted scenes.
Final Thoughts: "October Road" is definitely bumpy at times during this short first season, but the series has the potential to be a charming little small-town drama if a new set of writers can be brought in. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality, as well as a decent set of supplements. Recommended for fans who enjoyed the first season, but those new to the show should definitely try a rental first.