October Road



10-11 p.m. Thursday, March 15

If Thomas Wolfe had seen "October Road," he might not have said, "You can never go home again." More likely, it would have been, "You should never go home again." This ABC series about a successful author's return to the small New England town and the friends he abandoned a decade earlier would have been better off left on the conference table at the pitch session.

The show is brimming with characters who mostly have less texture than the pages of the script. Worse still, most are exactly as they were 10 years earlier, still playing exuberant air guitars, consuming beer by the kegful and being entirely and exclusively into themselves. When it comes to utter isolation, Jericho, Kan., has nothing on this place.

The stories trudge along like a semi on a steep uphill grade. Taken as a whole, the show looks more like something pasted together for potential demographic appeal than anyone's dramatic vision. It has gorgeous exterior shots of an idealized rustic town and well-chosen music, but neither compensates for a lack of substance.

Bryan Greenberg stars as Nick Garrett, who 10 years earlier left his girlfriend and his guy friends in the small, picturesque town of Knights Ridge, Mass. He was to take a six-week adventure trip that somehow turned into the equivalent of Gilligan's three-hour tour. His friends and loved one didn't take kindly to this act of desertion, but what really frosted them was the book Garrett wrote. The novel was full of barely concealed, unflattering characters based on his old crowd.

So what in the world would bring Garrett back? He gets a request to lead a one-day seminar at the local college. His instincts tell him to stay away, but then, seeking inspiration, he visits the dingy apartment where he wrote his best-seller. There, the current occupant tells Garrett that her dead grandmother would have advised him to return to his old hometown. Where do they get this stuff?

So Garrett goes back and gets reacquainted with Hannah (a more fetching Laura Prepon than you may remember from "That '70s Show"), his old flame and now the single mother of a TV-smart child (Slade Pearce). He also connects with his resentful former best friend Eddie (Geoff Stults), annoying Ikey (Evan Jones), former class bully Ray (Warren Christie) and Physical Phil (Jay Paulson), who hasn't stepped outside since 9/11 -- pretty much all the usual suspects.

You might expect Garrett to run into jealousy, a resurrection of old rivalries and bruised feelings, and he does. In fact, there's practically nothing unexpected in the script from exec producers Scott Rosenberg, Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec. As a result, network promos are a lot more exciting and promising than the series itself.

ABC Television Studio and GroupM Entertainment
Executive producers: Scott Rosenberg, Gary Fleder, Andre Nemec, Josh Applebaum, Peter Tortorici
Producer: Scott Shiffman
Director: Gary Fleder
Creators/teleplay: Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec, Scott Rosenberg
Co-producer: Paul Rabwin
Director of photography: Sharone Meir
Production designer: Nelson Coates
Editors: Armen Minasian, Melissa Kent, Padraic McKinley
Set decorator: Frank Galline
Casting: Donna Rosenstein, Kendra Castleberry
Nick Garrett: Bryan Greenberg
Hannah Daniels: Laura Prepon
The Commander: Tom Berenger
Ray "Big Cat" Cataldo: Warren Christie
Owen Rowan: Brad William Henke
Ikey: Evan Jones
Physical Phil: Jay Paulson
Sam Daniels: Slade Pearce
Eddie Latekka: Geoff Stults
Aubrey: Odette Yustman