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What is past is prologue and sequel

March 15, 2007|Paul Brownfield | Times Staff Writer

THE midseason drama "October Road" is about a first-time novelist who returns to his hometown 10 years after abandoning the people who love him/the people he loves.

Flashback with me, won't you? The year is 1997 (we see a poster of Kurt Cobain on a bedroom wall) and high school senior Nick Garrett (hunky Bryan Greenberg) is about to embark on a coming-of-age jaunt through Europe, leaving behind his boyhood friends and his one true love, Hannah ("That '70s Show's" Laura Prepon).

Next thing we know, it's a decade hence and Nick has morphed into Nicholson -- a fashionable writer in a fashionable Manhattan loft with an equally fashionable case of sophomore writer's block. When John Irving (not pictured) can't do that one-day seminar on the novel at Dufresne College in Nick's hometown, Knights Ridge, Mass., our boy author is summoned.

Created by Scott Rosenberg, Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec, "October Road" is about a guy, and a girl, and another guy and another girl, and still more guys and girls. Beyond this, it's meant to be about returning to the past you left and the tricky business of fictionalizing your friends in literary form for fun and profit.

Although here, the show is so far maddeningly cryptic, asking us to take the gist of Nick's autobiographical novel on faith. It's called "Turtle on a Snare Drum," and it certainly has the cover art of a novel.

Whatever is in it, the townsfolk generally treat him as if they're Oprah and he's fake memoirist James Frey. Nick decides to stay awhile, if for no other reason than to soak up other people's metaphors ("It's an apple cart and it's delicate" ... "the arsonist returns to the scene of his last great blaze" ... "the past is like a pimple on prom night, Eddie. You can try and ignore it. But it's still going to prevent Jimmy Whiteliff from slow-dancing with you during the favorite Boyz II Men song").

This last is spoken by the earthy bartender Janet (Rebecca Field) to the one-and-done cad Eddie (Geoff Stults). He's Nick's best mate; the others -- a guy who doesn't leave his house, another guy in a Red Sox hat, another guy who's amiable and married -- aren't as sore at Nick about what he wrote in his book.

Some high-quality TV trauma drama ensues -- does the peanut allergy mean Nick is the father of Hannah's kid? Is Eddie really serious about Janet? Hey, isn't that Tom Berenger in Nick's kitchen? -- and some genuinely cringe-worthy moments too.

The cringe-worthy moments involve air guitar and tennis rackets and some song by Boston, and Eddie pretending to be a squirrel in a tool shed, an old trick that charms the ladies. But by Episode 4, I was getting ready to declare "October Road" my new guilty pleasure.

Here, I guess, is a dude's version of an ABC chick show. No other network has 20- to 40-year-olds probing themselves quite so searchingly as ABC these days; they must be putting something in the lattes over there. Side effects include but not limited to: mooning, yearning, dry mouth. Might also swear you hear that song by Collective Soul playing somewhere.


`October Road'

Where: ABC

When: 10 to 11 tonight

Rating: TV-PG DL (may be unsuitable for young children with advisories for coarse language and suggestive dialogue)

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