Barrywatson8_whataboutbrian_s2_240Forget, for a second, the obviously tacked on pseudo cliffhanger with Barry Watson’s Brian showing up at the doorstep of the girl that every single one of us already knew he was supposed to be with.

If you eliminated that scene — a desperate plea from a show averaging fewer than six million viewers per week to get a third season even though merely getting a second season was already a miracle — the season (and probably series) finale of What About Brian closed exactly the way it should have. Dave and Deena (the underrated Rick Gomez and Amanda Detmer) attempted to rediscover their past selves by renewing their vows in the same place they were originally married and with the same druid priestess. Their separation and reconciliation has been the backbone of the second season and after a day of amusing misadventures — cancelled flights, closed roads, sex in front of cows — they realized what has always been the theme of the show: As people age, they change, but if you stick with the people you love (friends and partners alike), you can be as young and immature as you want to be.

As somebody in the show’s target demo, I can endorse that idea.

If Monday’s episode really was the series finale, it’s a bit of a pity, because What About Brian accomplished something very rare on primetime — it was a soap opera that skewed toward males and females equally. If you don’t realize how hard that is, check out ABC’s similarly aimed October Road, a clunky effort at male sentimentalism that finds Scott Rosenberg stealing from his own, far superior, Beautiful Girls script.

Sarahlandcaster5_whataboutbrian_s2_After a first season that got bogged down in the love triangle between Watson’s character, his best buddy (Matthew Davis) and the alleged girl of both of their dreams (Sarah Lancaster), the show found its footing in season two. Lancaster was largely scapegoated, though it was hardly her fault that the show’s writers never gave Marjorie a life outside of that initial triangle. The character was shipped off to Minnesota, returned briefly at midseason to shake things up again and then vanished again, rarely to be missed (at least she survived, which was more than could be said for Raoul Bova’s equally well-jettisoned Angelo).

With the Brian-Adam-Marjorie mess no longer at its center, What About Brian slowly tiptoed in its dream direction, which seemed to have been to become an early-Thirtysomething for a new generation. The characters talked frankly about their feelings, their relationships and their professional difficulties and even if they were more attractive and successful than most viewers (I speak mostly for myself here), they were relatable. Plus, Watson finally cut his hair, satisfying a generation of TV viewers.

Even with Lancaster’s exit (though she remained in the opening credits for most, if not all, of the season), What About Brian was one of TV’s best-looking casts, with Rachelle Lefevre, Krista Allen, Tiffani Thiessen, Stacy Keibler, Jessica Szohr supplementing a regular group in which I’ve jokingly been known to refer to Rosanna Arquette — TV’s foxiest 47-year-old — as "the ugly one." The addition of Jason George and Amanda Foreman in guest starring turns also contributed to both the show’s aesthetic merit, as well as its humor and its diversity.

Unlike last spring, when ABC was doubtlessly hoping to keep executive producer J.J. Abrams in the Touchstone fold, there isn’t much of an imperative for the network to keep What About Brian around. Abrams has moved his shingle to Warner Bros. TV and it’s never really been clear what his day-to-day involvement was with Brian anyway. In addition, the writers didn’t have the desire or the opportunity to build in any huge cliffhangers to try to force the network’s hand. Nobody’s was on the verge of death, marriage or child-birth and none of the late-season guest stars (including the winning Keibler and Thiessen) did anything to goose the show’s viewership. The show also doesn’t have critics honors or awards to display proudly.

What About Brian was just a mostly enjoyable and satisfying show, the kind of production that doesn’t earn the sort of manic dedication of a Veronica Mars or even a Studio 60. Given the amount of trash I watch, "mostly enjoyable and satisfying" is a pretty big compliment and if Brian doesn’t come back, I’ll miss it a smidge.

Was anybody else out there actually watching the show?

Posted by:Daniel Fienberg