“What About Brian”

By Jae-Ha Kim
Amazon.com
September 25, 2007

Sharing more in common with the chatty feel of Felicity than the action-driven Lost or Alias, the ubiquitous J.J. Abrams has another gem with the witty and bittersweet (but short-lived) drama What About Brian.

Both seasons are included in this five-disc set, though the first year produced just five episodes.

Airing from 2006-2007 on ABC, What About Brian stars Barry Watson (7th Heaven) as the only single person in his group of friends. Over the course of 24 episodes, he pines for his best friend’s girlfriend Marjorie (Sarah Lancaster), one of his friends comes out, and they all mourn the loss of one of their own. While not as melodramatic as nighttime soaps such as Melrose Place, What About Brian maintains a soap opera feel in the way the characters’ lives are intertwined, regardless of whether they should be or not.

As Brian’s older sister Nicole, Rosanna Arquette is a scene stealer who hits all the right notes. Married to a younger man and desperately wanting a baby, Nicole shares some poignant moments with her husband as they navigate a challenging journey.

The theme of “the grass is always greener on the other side” runs rampant here.

Brian, who his friends correctly see as afraid of commitment, wants to be married or at least part of a couple, while many of his married friends long for the freedom to date whomever they want again without having to return home to the same person.

The show’s strongest episodes are at the beginning of its run when Brian finds out his best friend has proposed to Marjorie and that she may have unresolved feelings for him as well. Listening to his answering machine, he hears her say, “It’s hard not to imagine ‘what if’…” His girlfriend at the time hears it, too, and understands the implications of what Marjorie says better than Brian does.

Unrequited love can only propel a show for so long, and other subplots run rampant–a pastry business for two of the main characters, a potentially life-threatening illness for the child of another couple, and friendship that often seems on the verge of a breakup.

But when all’s said and done, What About Brian could also have been called What About Love.

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