A guy (One Tree Hill’s Bryan Greenberg) tells his girl (That ’70s Show’s Laura Prepon) that he’s off to spend six weeks in Europe and will be back to resume their lives together. Ten years later…the guy, Nick, lives in Manhattan and has written a best-selling autobiographical novel that’s been made into a movie. When he’s invited back to his old hometown for a lecture engagement, he sees his girl and his old buddies, and gee, guess what? They are mostly pissed at him. (His defense for his fictional caricatures? ”I tried to change the names — they wouldn’t have it!”)
Such is the premise of the achingly sincere, deeply unbelievable October Road. There’s no way this self-absorbed artiste would, as he does, decide to move back home. The characters talk either stiltedly (”Which begs the question, Why did you run out of here?”) or slangily (”Your eyes are off the hinge!”). The series strains for a small-town, quirky vibe — think Ed crossed with Everwood — but lacks charm. Prepon does a fine job as a sensible single mom, who insists her 9-year-old son isn’t Nick’s (yeah, right). This is a show whose idea of cute-quirk is giving one of Nick’s old pals crippling agoraphobia and playing it for laughs. I felt sorry for older pros like Tom Berenger as Nick’s weary dad, and Penny Johnson Jerald (24’s Sherry Palmer!) as a college dean whom Nick begs for a teaching job by tossing pebbles at her window at night. Throw a rock back at him, Penny.