The assumption, as put forth by a great number of movies and TV shows, is that someone who's in his 30s and still single must have something wrong with him.
So along comes "What About Brian," a new ABC series about a single, 30ish guy, a self-professed "seventh wheel" among his married or otherwise coupled group of friends, and even the title seems to suggest that might be the case. Then there are the promos, which play heavily on the fact that Brian (Barry Watson, "7th Heaven") has it bad for his best friend's fiancee (Sarah Lancaster, "Everwood").
How odd and refreshing, then, to find that, despite being hung up on a girl, Brian is neither a lovelorn sap nor, at the other end of the scale, a womanizing cad. There may, in fact, not be anything wrong with him, series creator Dana Stevens says.
"I think the new world of thirtysomethings is that all bets are off," says Stevens, a movie writer ("City of Angels," "Life or Something Like It") making her first foray into television. "There's not that much pressure anymore to live a certain way, to be your parents. There are so many choices.
"I don't think I know the answer yet, but it's intriguing to me to answer almost every question in a surprising way. I think there are people who can be single their whole lives and be happy."
Stevens' use of the word "thirtysomething" isn't accidental. "Brian" has been held up to that 1980s touchstone more than once (Stevens, an actress prior taking up screenwriting, even appeared on the show once). She's flattered by the comparisons -- "I was a huge fan," she says -- but nearly two decades have passed since "thirtysomething" first aired, and it's safe to say that people in their 30s today don't look at life in quite the same way as Hope, Michael, Gary et al.
"I think a lot more of the issues for people are economic, are whether or not they're ever going to get married," Stevens says. "Staying married, I think, might be harder these days."
The show will explore those ideas, she says, both through Brian and the other characters (the cast also includes Matthew Davis as Lancaster's fiance, Rick Gomez, Amanda Detmer, Rosanna Arquette and Raoul Bova). As she sees it, the show will have its heavier moments, but it won't hesitate to point out the often absurdly funny nature of love.
"I really do see the show as a very reality-based show, so it has that drama of reality," Stevens says. "But I also think real life is incredibly funny."
As "What About Brian" is Stevens' first TV series, ABC recruited TV veterans Jeff Judah and Gabe Sachs ("Freaks and Geeks," "life as we know it") to help her with the day-to-day aspects of running a show. ("Alias" and "Lost" creator J.J. Abrams is also an executive producer but isn't deeply involved.) Stevens says they've been "amazing collaborators," and they've also helped her gain some perspective on what makes guys tick.
"My personal opinion is that women are more easily figured out," Stevens says. "Women are open books, and men are not."
At this point, a quizzical look must have crossed my face, because she adds, "Maybe that's because I'm a woman."
A lot of men would say just the opposite, I note.
"I don't know," she replies. "The truth is, I think women are going to want to watch our show to find out about men. I feel it's so like 'Sex and the City' -- that sort of told you everything you ever wanted to know about women. But we haven't had that [show] about men."
Stevens jokes that she hopes answering the question of "What About Brian" will take several years. "Maybe nothing's wrong with him," she says. "We don't know. Or maybe something's wrong with everybody."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun