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October Road on DVD: Season 1 Season 2

"October Road" The Complete Second Season DVD Review

Buy October Road: The Complete Second Season from Amazon.com October Road: Season Two (2007-2008)
Show & DVD Details

Creators: Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Scott Rosenberg

Directors: Gary Fleder, David Paymer, Sandy Smolan

Regular Cast: Bryan Greenberg (Nick Garrett), Laura Prepon (Hannah Daniels), Lindy Booth (Pizza Girl), Warren Christie (Ray "Big Cat" Cataldo), Rebecca Field (Janet Meadows), Brad William Henke (Owen Rowan), Evan Jones (Ikey), Jay Paulson (Physical Phil), Slade Pearce (Sam Daniels), Geoff Stults (Eddie Latekka), Odette Yustman (Aubrey), Tom Berenger (The Commander)

Recurring Characters: Jonathan Murphy (Ronnie Garrett), Penny Johnson (Dean Leslie Etwood), Sean Gunn (Rooster), Julie Ann Emery (Christine Cataldo), Elizabeth Bogush (Alison Rowan)

Guest Stars: Veronica Cartwright (Lynn Farmer), David Clennon (Randall Farmer), Michael Cornacchia (Carter Bump), Armand Assante (Gabriel Diaz), Frances Fisher (Ellen Daniels), George Dzundza (Gloy Daniels), Stacy Keibler (Rory Dunlop), Bill Bellamy (Stratton Lorb)

Running Time: 552 Minutes (13 episodes) / Rating: TV-PG

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: May 5, 2009 / Season 2 Airdates: November 22, 2007 - March 10, 2008
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s); Suggested Retail Price: $34.99
Standard-width black keepcase with cardboard slipcover

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By Kelvin Cedeno

Television is a risky business. The jobs of many rest on the Nielsen ratings, for better or worse. Films have the luxury of waiting to see how audiences respond after the product has been completed. Television series, on the other hand, are never complete unless the creators feel it's time to go (a rarity these days). More often, the network pulls the plug.
ABC has been particularly brutal lately, ending most programs after a mere season or two. One of the shows to suffer this fate is "October Road".

The small-town drama focused primarily on Nick Garrett (Bryan Greenberg), who left his home of Knights Ridge, Massachusetts for a whole decade. During this time, he managed to write a novel based on his hometown and friends, painting neither in the best light. Upon returning, he's met with disdain and is shocked to find out how much has changed since his departure. Now he must earn back the trust of those he left behind for so long.

The second season's character arcs all continue what was left off in the debut season. Nick's high school sweetheart Hannah Daniels (Laura Prepon, "That '70s Show") is engaged to his nemesis Ray "Big Cat" Cataldo (Warren Christie). Owen Rowan (Brad William Henke) disowns his best friend Ikey (Evan Jones) after finding out Ikey slept with his wife, Alison (Elizabeth Bogush). As such, the rest of the group also shuts Ikey out. The town's resident ladies' man, Eddie Latekka (Geoff Stults), gets into his first true relationship with the physically insecure Janet (Rebecca Field). Physical Phil (Jay Paulson) is a shut-in who hasn't left his house since the World Trade Center attacks, but his perky, unnamed girlfriend (Lindy Booth) manages to bring optimism to his life.

Aubrey (Odette Yustman) and Nick (Bryan Greenberg) share a slightly awkward reunion amidst college campus foliage. Ray, a.k.a. "Big Cat" (Warren Christie), and Hannah (Laura Prepon) react differently to Sam's imposing questions about their engagement.

"October Road" got off to a solid start in its first season,
though it still needed time to find its footing. The good news is that the second season is an improvement. One of the biggest problems early on was how melodramatic the series could get. It often raised minor inconveniences and blew them out of proportion for the sake of creating conflict. This time around, the creators are more careful about what to elevate and what to downplay. Things that shatter the characters' lives are justifiably momentous, and the more miniscule things are given a sense of irony missing before.

The actors' natural performances continue to be the highlight here. While other shows find their strengths in snappy dialogue, a signature style, or intricate storylines, "October Road" really finds its niche in its cast. Everyone involved is honest and understated. Characters that may come across as awfully unpleasant on paper become far more approachable thanks to genuine craft and skill.

If there's anything the program suffers from, it is predictability. While the show is entertaining and even engaging at times, it's often easy to figure out what's going to happen next. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but shows that run into this problem find ways to distract from it. As said earlier, the cast all around is excellent and truly invests into the ensemble of characters, but besides that there isn't a whole lot for the audience to latch onto. The anticipated plot points are easier to take than the astounding number of coincidences found in the first season (though a couple more do crop up here), but they still hamper some of the drama slightly.

"October Road" was a series that ended too soon. It had only two short seasons in which to find an audience, and it apparently didn't find one large enough for ABC's liking. This is unfortunate as some of the most beloved television shows of all-time overcame awkward beginnings to finally hit their stride. There was some good potential here, and considering what a step-up the second season was from the first, one only can only imagine how much slicker a third season could've been. As it is, audiences are only left with two decent seasons' worth of material to spend in the close-knit town of Knights Ridge. Spending time there becomes easier this week as Disney and ABC Studios make the remainder of the show available in The Complete Second Season DVD.

While on the infidelity tour, Owen (Brad William Henke, right) demands that Nick (Bryan Greenberg) reveal every last detail about the incident. A Christmas episode just isn't the same without a romantic scene out in the snow.

Disc 1

1. Let's Get Owen (42:32) (Originally aired November 22, 2007)
Nick and Eddie head to New York to find Owen and bring him back home. Back in Knights Ridge, Hannah can't shake Nick's declaration from her mind.

2. How to Kiss Hello (43:10) (Originally aired November 26, 2007)
When Aubrey returns to town,
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Nick has trouble shaking her off when he still has feelings for Hannah. Eddie and Janet decide to make their relationship public, but not without some hurdles first.

3. The Infidelity Tour (42:59) (Originally aired December 3, 2007)
To face his demons, Owen has Nick take him to all the spots where Ikey and Alison went to incognito. Hannah is worried about how her engagement to Ray is affecting Sam.

4. Deck the Howls (42:40) (Originally aired December 10, 2007)
The Commander (Tom Berenger) reacts bitterly towards Christmas decorations, causing Nick to investigate further. Janet gets Eddie a present that not only surprises Eddie, but herself, as well.

The Commander (Tom Berenger) takes Leslie (Penny Johnson) for a night out dancing, disregarding the pain in his back. Aubrey (Odette Yustman) spends some quality time on a ferris wheel with her father (Armand Assante).

Disc 2

5. Once Around the Block (42:31) (Originally aired December 17, 2007)
Hannah goes head-to-head with Ray's uptight ex-wife Christine. Pizza Girl convinces Phil to take his newly-restored classic car out of the house for a drive.

6. Revenge of the Cupcake Kid (42:21) (Originally aired January 7, 2008)
Hannah and Janet try to cool the tension between Ray and Eddie by arranging a double date. Nick and Eddie's first client ends up being a school acquaintance Nick once picked on.

7. Spelling it Out (42:32) (Originally aired January 14, 2008)
Knights Ridge unites when one of its own makes it to the national spelling bee finals. Ronnie suspects that Aubrey is cheating on Nick but is unable to persuade him of the notion.

8. Dancing Days Are Here Again (42:14) (Originally aired January 21, 2008)
Aubrey avoids her deadbeat father (Armand Assante) who's come to town, so he has Nick intervene. The Commander suffers from back pain that may be more than what it seems.

9.We Lived Like Giants (42:31) (Originally aired February 11, 2008)
Owen can't get the woman who saved his life out of his mind, so Nick and his family join on a road trip to find her. Hannah, Janet, and Pizza Girl have a girls' night out.

The soft-focused, warmly lit boys of Knights Ridge all search for their friend Angela, who's ready to unleash her slingshot ammunition in "Stand Alone By Me." Nick (Bryan Greenberg) shows off his guitar racket skills as the rest of the band rocks out with their own household products.

Disc 3

10. Hat? No Hat? (42:29) (Originally aired February 28, 2008)
Much to her chagrin, Hannah's parents (Frances Fisher, George Dzundza) come by to help with the wedding. Nick and Eddie attempt a commercial for their business only to discover they have no money.

11. Stand Alone By Me (42:27) (Originally aired March 3, 2008)
When their childhood friend Angela passes away, Nick and the others reminisce about her and how she shaped them into the people they are today.

12.The Fine Art of Surfacing (41:47) (Originally aired March 10, 2008)
Janet grows increasingly more uncomfortable when Eddie's ex-girlfriend Rory (Stacy Keibler) returns. Nick's agent offers him the opportunity to tour with U2 and write a memoir about the experience.

13. As Soon as You are Able (42:16) (Originally aired March 10, 2008)
After Eddie is hospitalized from a brutal assault, Ikey proves his loyalty. Nick decides to accept his agent's offer, but not before assuring everyone that he'll return.

VIDEO and AUDIO

"October Road" returns to DVD in the anamorphic 1.78:1 aspect ratio of its HD airings. The results are quite good overall. As with many other programs set in rural New England, this one contains an almost constant autumn color palette that's replicated faithfully here. Some shots are a bit soft, and slight compression artifacts are noticeable in outdoor transitional shots. Still, these cases are infrequent, and the image generally is clear and detailed.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack gets the job done. Sound effects are understandably minimal as dialogue is the primary element. That aspect comes across well, even showing a bit of directional mixing at times. The sound field really opens up during the many pop and rock songs throughout the season. They can be a bit heavy, but this seems to be more of a sound mixer choice than mastering problem. The tracks meet expectations regardless.

"Bumps in the Road" features Geoff Stults taken by surprise when the voice of an operator pops up on his cell phone. In the "Scenic Route," Laura Prepon shows off the type of home few single mothers actually have.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Like the first season, "October Road"'s second season DVD has quite a desolate collection of supplements. It begins with "Bumps in the Road" (2:54), a short blooper reel featuring the usual sort of outtakes. It's not quite long or boisterous enough to truly make an impression.

"The Scenic Route: A Behind the Scenes Tour" (6:06) takes a look at the different sets that appear in the series on a regular basis. Laura Prepon, Tom Berenger, and Geoff Stults each serve as host to the locations where their respective characters are most often seen. It can't substitute for an actual "making of", but it does allow the viewer to appreciate all the easy-to-miss details.

The final feature is certainly the most valuable of this set. "Road's End: The Final Chapter" (9:51) is an epilogue created specifically for this DVD. When the series wasn't picked up for a third season, unanswered questions were left dangling in the season finale. ABC agreed to let the cast and crew film a brief epilogue that gives an actual conclusion to the series. The catch was that ABC wouldn't finance it themselves, forcing the creators to put their own personal money into the conclusion. As such, the presentation is more confined than a normal episode, and it's been shot with digital cameras rather than film ones. None of that, however, is really as relevant as to whether or not the content satisfies.

A now teenage Sam addresses his father off-screen as the "Road's End" epilogue coyly keeps the identity a secret as long as it can. The set's minimally-animated main menu shows the rarely-seen October Road from a different angle than the previous set's.

The answer is both yes and no. It's difficult to wrap two seasons worth of storylines into 10 minutes. After a scene that takes place a few months after the season finale, there's a flash forward ahead to seven years involving a now teenage Sam leaving for a post-graduation road trip. Almost the entire main cast returns to bid him farewell, revealing who they're with and how they're doing. The only notable cast member missing is Brad William Henke, who was busy filming "Lost" at the time of this shooting.
Otherwise, all the questions left unanswered are given closure. It's admittedly a bit jarring to see so much exposition crammed into such a short amount of time, but fans aren't likely to be disappointed by the actual revelations. The creators of the series should certainly be commended for their loyalty to the fans and for ensuring a proper ending with the resources given.

The third disc opens with previews that can also be accessed via the Sneak Peeks section. These include "Army Wives": The Complete Second Season, Confessions of a Shopaholic, The Proposal and Disney Blu-ray discs. An additional promo for SoapNet is exclusive to the Sneak Peeks menu.

The menus offer a similar feel to the ones from the first season's DVD. The slightly animated main menu shows the program's titular road leading to Knights Ridge while the show's instrumental theme plays. All other menus (except the bonus material menu) are static images of different landmarks, but they each feature unique pieces of score.

In a surprising move, all three discs contain full-color artwork, something of a rarity nowadays. Each disc showcases a different character (Nick, Hannah, and Ray, respectively). They all housed in a dual Amaray case which places the first and second discs on opposite sides of a swinging tray. The only insert included is a pamphlet for Blu-ray titles.

Review continues below...

Phil (Jay Paulson) and Pizza Girl (Lindy Booth) admire Christmas decorations left up by their neighbors. Janet (Rebecca Field), Pizza Girl (Lindy Booth), and Hannah (Laura Prepon) spend time away from their men by attending a local bar and talking about guys (what else?).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"October Road" is one of the many television series out there that ended prematurely. Offering some improvement over the previous season, this second and final one laid the groundwork for more promising things to come. While fans won't find out how the creators would've used what they learned from this series to its advantage, there's at least solace in the fact that no major questions were left unanswered. Unfortunately, that new epilogue is the only bonus feature of real worth. Considering the extra time given to shoot the finale, some final thoughts from the cast and crew would've been potent. At least the episodes are presented satisfactorily on DVD. Fans of the series will surely want to own this release. Those who are new are encouraged to rent the first season to test the waters and get a sense of what might've been.

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Reviewed May 4, 2009.