You're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I found it a little difficult to not judge 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, that would have to be one of them. Remarkably, that line was on the back of the first season set and returns again on the packaging of the second season.
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 Garrett (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 Season 1 scene that's just painful.)
Season 2, which was both the show's first full season and the show's final season, does thankfully see some mild improvements in the writing. While the dialogue still sound cliche at times (there's some particularly clunky lines, such as "I'm just living my life - look into it." - although that isn't as bad as Season 1's, "You seem to have forgotten which side of October Road you belong on!") and the show overuses pop songs to sell the emotion of the scene, but these issues aren't quite as distracting and are seen less frequently than they were in the short first season.
The show's core concept (which is apparently based to some degree on the life of co-creator Scott Rosenberg) was never the issue - it's just that The second season opens after Nick had professed his love for Hannah, and after a dream proves to be just that, Hannah finds out that Nick has left, heading to NYC with Eddie (Geoff Stults) in order to drag Owen (Brad William Henke) back to Knight's Ridge after he found out about his wife cheating on him. Back in Knight's Ridge, Ray "Big Cat" Cataldo (Warren Christie) tries to start things up again with Hannah, while Eddie and Janet (Rebecca Field) work on furthering their relationship and deciding whether or not to go more public with it.
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, I like the characters and the concept is workable, but it's too bad that the dialogue - despite some improvement in the second season - still is the weak link and holds the series back. Fans seeking more answers about what happened to the characters will be pleased by the inclusion of a "mini-episode" filmed for the DVD that offers an enjoyable wrap-up.
7. 2- 1 22 Nov 07 Let's Get Owen
8. 2- 2 26 Nov 07 How to Kiss Hello
9. 2- 3 3 Dec 07 The Infidelity Tour
10. 2- 4 10 Dec 07 Deck the Howls
11. 2- 5 17 Dec 07 Once Around the Block
12. 2- 6 7 Jan 08 Revenge of the Cupcake Kid
13. 2- 7 14 Jan 08 Spelling It Out
14. 2- 8 21 Jan 08 Dancing Days Are Here Again
15. 2- 9 11 Feb 08 We Lived Like Giants
16. 2-10 18 Feb 08 Hat? No Hat?
17. 2-11 3 Mar 08 Stand Alone By Me
18. 2-12 10 Mar 08 The Fine Art of Surfacing (1)
19. 2-13 10 Mar 08 As Soon as You Are Able (2)
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: What fans will be pleased most about is "Road's End", a 15-minute mini-episode that was filmed for this DVD set. The mini-episode is a sweet conclusion to the series, and will likely please fans who were hoping for more closure to the show. We also get a brief set tour and bloopers.
Final Thoughts: Although the writing is somewhat better in season 2, it's still the weakest aspect in a series that otherwise had a good deal of potential - a solid ensemble cast and a workable core concept. The DVD offers very good audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extras (the most noteworthy of which is a short finale that is exclusive to this DVD set.) Recommended for fans.