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October Road - The Complete Second Season - HBO television series DVD / drama DVD / sci-fi and horror DVD review
Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 3 stars
Actors: Bryan Greenberg, Odette Yustman, Laura Prepon, Geoff Stults, Jay Paulson, Tom Berenger
Creators: Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Scott Rosenberg   Studio: Walt Disney
DVD release: 05 May 2009   Runtime: 552 minutes (3 discs)
Format: Box set, Color, DVD-Video, NTSC, Widescreen
Features: Aspect ratio 1.78:1, Audio (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English), Subtitles (English SDH), Road's End: The Final Chapter (exclusive DVD-only series epilogue), Bumps In The Road (bloopers), The Scenic Route: A Behind-the-Scenes Tour

Straight wide roads, lined with tall perpetually autumn-clad trees, with happy little family-laden houses dancing up and down the streets. This is what is found in October Road, the second and final messy season. It is packed with drama and love and proves once and for all that, no, little boys never do fully grow up. Silliness combined with realistic human emotion makes for quite a ride. October Road offers a lot of mingled personal stories in a very short time frame:
"It's combustion, boys and girls together. You gotta take the good kabooms with the bad. The good kabooms make the bad kabooms worth it."
Season One was a small peek into the world of Knight's Ridge, sleepy Massechusetts town and home to famous bestselling author Nick Garrett. Nick left home the summer after high school for six weeks - that somehow turned into ten years. He left them all behind: family, friends, girlfriend. Nick wasn't exactly welcomed home with open arms by the girlfriend he abandoned, nor by his best friends. Now, in Season Two, he is working on trying to put his life back together.

Brian Greenberg heads up the cast as Nick Garrett, with Laura Prepon being Hannah Jane, the high school sweetheart he abandoned without notice or explanation ten years ago. "The guys": Owen Rowan (actor Brad William Henke), Eddie Latteka (Geoff Stults), Ikey (Evan Jones) and Physical Phil, the Shut In, by Jay Paulson, who plays the part exceptionally well. Tom Berenger as The Commander brings some solidity to the scene. He is the cornerstone of the show. He's the classic image of what a father figure ought to be: loving, forgiving and supportive, with shoulders broad and strong enough to take it all. Every good story needs a bad guy, a nemesis, someone to root against and growl at. October Road does this one well. Ray "Big Cat" Cataldo, portrayed by Warren Christie, is slimy, underhanded, and downright evil most of the time. He schemes, lies, and has no qualms playing dirtier than dirty. Christie, evil, is awesome in his utter creepiness. Guest starring on these three little discs are familiar faces from a variety of other shows. All the actors do great and believable jobs, with the possible exception of the main character. It's a good thing he has a solid cast behind him.

While the whole short series is only 19 episodes total, somehow they never do again reach the pinnacle set by the fifth episode (shown in Season One) - it sets the bar almost too high. A few episodes stand out as being the real gems of the series. The nudist episode is really pretty laugh-worthy (Hat? No Hat?), while "Stand Alone By Me" is another story entirely. Hope and healing shine out of the nostalgic flashbacks, and the pain felt in this episode is actually restorative. "We Lived Like Giants" is a metaphor for life - living large, living life to the fullest at any age, includes a road trip along with a lot of personal revelations for each of the guys. There is a sweet joy in the running sideline story of the Shut In and his Pizza Girl. The Commander and young Sam are both entertaining characters, and the plight of the sweet but plump virgin dating the one-time high school quarterback hero tugs the heart strings with sympathy, but overall, the show evokes annoyance rather than charm.

Unfortunately, it's like a gorgeous stained-glass window, with all the hopes and joys one expects to find when looking through to the old-timey church, only to find that it lacks a faithful congregation. It is an empty promise. October Road sets up a pretty picture, but it lets us down by showing us several people who are superficial and whose dramas are primarily self-made.

One aspect of the show that is a sheer joy is the music. It is well-chosen, combining an incredible variety of old favorites and new to really set a tone that spans generations. It is the real strength and beauty of October Road. From America and Edie Brickle to Cinderella and Skid Row to The Stones and Bruce Hornsby to Soul Asylem, Meatloaf, Kiss. that list is long, and varied. As a tool, it is always well-placed and most often downright perfect for any given scene.

The "Final Chapter" is short, sweet, and actually answers every lingering question that they never got to in the show itself before it was canceled. Who ends up with whom seven years later, paternity questions, even whether Pizza Girl has a real name or not. The one major loss in this mini-finale is Owen Rowen, who is nowhere to be seen. Many shows that are canceled never do answer the big questions; this is the big Bonus Feature that really makes the DVD set worth getting for fans. Here's hoping they sent a trend for the other sad, homeless shows. Endings are good!

From producers Josh Appelbaum (Beautiful Girls, Life on Mars, etc. ) and Scott Rosenberg (Life on Mars, Alias, etc.) and Andre Nemec (Alias, Happy Town, etc.), quaint, poignant, small-town sweetness is the calling card of October Road. The problem lies in the lack of depth behind those images. The rambling, contrived monologues of the student dating her teacher and the not-so-mysterious drama-ridden mystery of the heroine combine to make watchers throw up their hands and sigh in irritation.
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reviewed by Carolynn Evans
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