In October Road (Thursday, 9 p.m., ABC), brilliant young writer Nick Garrett (Bryan Greenberg) leaves his small town, publishes a literary classic trashing the folks back home, and returns 10 years later to face their resentment. The pilot slathers on the wistfulness and nostalgia, hoping we'll feel Nick's longing for the home he once knew. Instead, we get distracted toting up the nonsensical plot points.
For example, why has no one in Knights Ridge heard that Nick is returning to teach at the local college, given the fact that he's the town's primary obsession? (Even Nick's brother has forgotten to tell their dad about it.) And why did Nick leave the love of his life in Knights Bridge and then make her a pathetic character in his novel, given his powerful feelings for her?
The only pleasure to be had in October Road ' albeit an unintentional one ' is watching the preposterous attempt to portray Nick as a literary genius. 'Did you intend a deeper allegorical nihilism when you set the last chapter at Ground Zero?' a fan asks.
With nihilism that bitchin', Nick is most certainly a great writer and a deep thinker. Whoever came up with the script for October Road, sadly, is neither.
Friday, 9 pm (A&E)
A&E's series brings us startlingly close to people with addictions. They agree to be filmed for a TV program but don't know that their loved ones are planning an intervention. The result is a dose of reality so raw and dramatic that you almost turn away from the TV screen. Almost.
The new season begins with Ryan, a handsome young man addicted to OxyContin. It's time for an intervention, but the process is complicated by the fact that Ryan's stepdad is himself addicted to alcohol.
I find myself becoming addicted to Intervention. And don't even think about trying to intervene.
Monday, 8 pm (HGTV)
David Bromstad aims to make over homeowners' rooms using color, and he approaches the task with the sweetest disposition imaginable. No snobbery or sarcasm for this design expert ' he's all about solving problems with a soothing bedside manner and a bag of magic paint chips.
David's first assignment is transforming a too-green bedroom. 'Shelley has put a lot of work into her home, but she's lost her way in the bedroom,' he says tactfully. David springs into action, painting the walls caramel. And then the stroke of genius: ice-blue throw pillows. 'When you accent cool colors with a warm background,' he says, 'it makes the whole room look warmer.'
The bedroom is saved, and Shelley is overjoyed. I plan to stock up on ice-blue throw pillows to solve my own personal problems.
'Til Death Do Us Part
Monday, 9 pm (Court TV)
Court TV's first original scripted series is a delightfully dark homage to Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Here, our bemused host is trash auteur John (Pink Flamingos) Waters, who introduces couples on their wedding day.
'Til Death Do Us Part shows how death ' always involving foul play ' does them part. In the pilot, we meet an elderly doctor who's just wed his hot young receptionist. He's in it for the sex, she's in it for the money, but soon boredom sets in and they both want out. The fun part is trying to figure out who will off whom, and the episode keeps us guessing. Double crosses turn to triple crosses, with kinky sex thrown in to spice up the mix.
'He wants to play dirty, I can play dirty too,' the receptionist says.
If the series itself keeps playing dirty (and I trust it will), we might have a new guilty pleasure on our hands.
Tuesday, 10 pm (Bravo)
Bravo's reality series follows Jackie Warner, owner of a sleek L.A. gym. That premise yields exactly what you'd expect: loving close-ups of barbells and endless scenes of trainers with their clients. (Sample dialogue: 'Good job! Let's go, let's go, let's go!') It would be profoundly boring but for one wrinkle: Jackie is a lesbian. And we don't often see TV shows that get into the nitty-gritty of a lesbian's life.
In the second-season premiere, we watch Jackie evaluate her troubled relationship with Mimi. The camera catches the two of them fighting, making up and fighting again. It even follows them into counseling, where not even the therapist can figure out a way to solve their problems.
Now, I'm not a licensed psychologist myself, but would the couple be better off if they kept the TV cameras out of their every intimate moment? Just a thought.
This American Life
Thursday, 9:30 pm (Showtime)
The Chicago-based public radio show makes an awkward transition to TV. As on radio, it tells quirky stories of This American Life, but the pilot is spoiled by a streak of condescension toward the Americans who are living that life.
Host Ira Glass narrates the story of a Texas ranch family obsessed with their bull Chance. They treat him like a household pet and feel devastated when he dies ' so devastated that they have him cloned.
So far so good: quirky. But one can't escape the impression that Glass, the hipper-than-thou urbanite, is putting on his earnest subjects. He draws them out with faux-respect while winking at the viewers: 'Look at the strange life forms I found in Texas!'
This approach becomes especially distasteful when the cloned bull mauls owner Ralph. Ralph generously grants Glass an interview in the hospital, unaware that he's being laughed at.
At this point, I fantasized about the bull chasing Glass, screaming, all the way back to Chicago.