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TELEVISION REVIEW

ABC's 'Brian' is mired in blandness

If Starbucks ever started producing TV, ''What About Brian" would probably be its first series. This is a just-add-water dramedy about life in your 30s that looks like a TV commercial with plots. The people are pretty, their homes are pretty, their problems are pretty, and it's all pretty shallow. The ABC series is ''thirtysomething" without literate scripts or interesting casting -- in other words, ''thirtynothing."

The bland premise of ''What About Brian," which premieres tomorrow at 10 on Channel 5, is that Brian is the only single person in his group of friends. Played by Barry Watson from ''7th Heaven," Brian is a diehard romantic with a habit of dating inappropriate women such as the explosive woman he calls ''Car Girl." But -- Omigod! -- our cutely scruffy hero is falling in love with his best friend's fiancee, Marjorie (Sarah Lancaster). And Marjorie appears to be secretly smitten with Brian. Stay tuned for lots of almost kisses and significant side-glances for the duration of the series, which probably won't be very long.

While Brian gets his mope on, his friends form the kind of bantering ensemble we've seen on ''Friends," or ''The L Word," or ''How I Met Your Mother," or any urban romantic comedy or drama. But this collection of LA beauties, all of whom could be models, and all of whom appear to live far above their means, is a generic one. There's Dave (Rick Gomez) and Deena (Amanda Detmer), who are worried about their sex life. There's Nic (Rosanna Arquette) and Angelo (Raoul Bova), who are worried about having children. And there's Adam (Matthew Davis) and Marjorie, who aren't worried but should be. When he's with all of them, Brian woefully calls himself ''the seventh wheel."

Clearly, ABC thinks ''What About Brian" holds some attraction for fans of ''Grey's Anatomy," since the network is premiering it in the ''Grey's Anatomy" time slot before moving it to its Monday at 10 p.m. home. But while both shows are light dramas, they're quite different in tone. ''Grey's Anatomy" has the character poignancy and lovable nastiness that eludes ''What About Brian." We're meant to take the dull, humorless psychic perseverations of Brian & Co. at face value, which is hard to do.

J.J. Abrams, best known for ''Alias," ''Lost," and ''Felicity," is among the executive producers, but don't look for any of his trademark ingenuity. ''What About Brian" is another TV concoction created primarily to attract younger audiences, the same folks who failed to watch the superior ''Love Monkey" on CBS earlier this season. The show wasn't necessarily created to be good.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com.

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