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October Load

 article about October Road
2008-01-21 08:07:39

I didn't even care how I contributed to producing its magical, glowing warmth; I just wanted to be a part of it on some level. So it's all the more surprising that as an adult, I seldom find the time to squeeze it into my schedule, although a big part of this has to do with me not having cable TV.

I realize that being cable challenged may seem like a foreign concept here in these United States, but I'm guessing I'm not alone. Yes, there's people who live in the depths of Appalachia, those prison inmates who have to wear pink and live in the Arizona desert with that hard ass sheriff from those emails, and, of course, me. I guess I could look at the bright side, I'm probably the only one of this group with all his teeth and a job, which is a small comfort.

Here in Chicago not having cable means 14 channels of potential offerings. Of these, three feature Spanish language programming and one seems to be an on-going series of local 30-minute commercials. So when I'm not trolling Telemundo for Mexican women in lingerie, I have about 10 viewing options. This lack of variety usually means watching something I wouldn't really select if I had a choice.

Unfortunately, shows that I might truly enjoy never seem to enter my random viewing strike zone, while the least common denominator crap seems to drift into my wheelhouse every time my hand meets the remote. This is happening right now with a show called "October Road", or as us insiders like to call it, "OR". I don't make plans to watch it, I don't even want to watch it, but every Monday at 9:30pm, there we are, me and OR with about 30 minutes to kill. I could just turn it off, but once OR has touched that special little part of you that likes to make sarcastic comments and guffaw at bad dramatic moments, it's pretty hard to walk away from it.

OR takes place in a small, squeaky-clean New England town. I don't know the name of this town, nor do I know the name of any of the characters, it's actually easier to watch if you're ignorant of such facts. There's the main character, who looks like a poor man's Patrick Dempsey. He left town years ago and penned a famous book that trashed the town and all his friends with it. Though he accomplished this literary feat by age 28, he seems content to return to this hamlet and open a window installation business with his former best friend, who I call "Athletic Guy".

Athletic Guy can apparently sleep with any woman in town, but has inexplicably turned his affections toward the mood-swinging, pudgy female bartender at the local watering hole. I'm not sure what to make of this plot twist, I can only guess that one of the female writers has a weight problem and a high school quarterback fantasy. The Bartender's best friend is Main Guy's old girlfriend, who also happens to have a son fathered by Athletic Guy. Old Girlfriend is also engaged to the town jerk, who's known as "Big Cat". I guess I do remember that character's name, but that's probably because he is neither big, nor is he a cat.

Rounding out the cast of friends is a fat guy married to a hot girl (evidently this town is rife with these mismatches), an agoraphobic who refuses to leave his home (I would too if I lived in with these people), and a slimy dimwit who slept with fat guy's hot wife (I guess she just makes bad choices). Tom Barringer has apparently abandon all hope of respectable acting work and appears here as Main Guy's widower dad, who's now dating what appears to be the only black person in town.

For some reason, everyone resides in enormous Victorian homes, regardless of financial, marital or employment status. I guess ornate woodwork, pocket doors and sprawling kitchens are necessities these 28- year-olds simply cannot live without. Do they just hand out keys to these houses when you graduate from October Road High School? It's a mystery.

It would be bad enough if all of this was limited to the present day, but that would deprive us of the childhood memories that made this tight-knit group the self-absorbed idiots they've become. Consequently, we are treated to flashbacks every so often, which do a pretty good job of replicating the early 70s. Unfortunately, if one does the math, these scenes should be taking place somewhere around 1989. Maybe the space-time continuum functions differently on October Road.

I have no idea how or why this show got on the air, but I hope the good people at ABC will put it, me, and the rest of the American viewing public out of our misery sometime in the near future. This show being on during the writer's strike only seems to diminish their argument.

My advice to you, the reader, would be to avoid any exit sign for October Road, just keep on driving and be glad you did, because I'm not sure there's an on ramp that will take you back out of town.



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