TV shows about sensitive love-hungry guys are a risky proposition: No matter how handsome the protagonist, if he’s too indecisive or commitment-shy to be a decent real-life boyfriend, the series barely stands a chance. What About Brian may yet escape that trap, but the pilot doesn’t bode well. All-grown-up 7th Heaven teen Barry Watson plays the title character, a mopey Los Angeles video-game programmer who’s the only single guy in his crowd. Brian is in love with Marjorie (Sara Lancaster), the girlfriend of his callous buddy Adam (Matthew Davis), but it’s unclear if he’s pining for her because she’s a saintly pediatrician (and a hottie) or if he only wants her ’cause she’s not available.
Creator Dana Stevens is obviously inspired by the relationship dramas of Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick (thirtysomething, Once & Again) but unlike her role models, she seldom cuts her characters open to reveal the fears and longings that drive them. Because we don’t grasp what makes Brian tick, he just comes off like a whiner—and an incredibly solipsistic one, as we learn when his pregnant sister (Rosanna Arquette) suffers a late-term miscarriage, which he reads as a sign telling him to step up his pursuit of Marjorie. Surprisingly, the most interesting character is one of the most potentially clichd: Dave (Rick Gomez), the family-man sidekick who envies Brian’s single life. Dave perks up when his wife (Amanda Detmer) suggests an open marriage, then turns rueful after realizing he’s agreed to be a cuckold, and the tender depiction of his plight is all that keeps the pilot from being a textbook example of the superficial navel-gazing that’s as synonymous with L.A. as racial strife and boob jobs.—Andrew Johnston