"What About Brian" ended its brief first season on ABC last May, about a week before the network announced its lineup for 2006-07. Its cast and crew, while hopeful the show would be picked up, was pretty well prepared for bad news.
"I let the phone ring all day that day," recalls Amanda Detmer, who plays the not-so-happily married Deena Greco on the series. "I wouldn't answer it, because I thought I already knew."
She finally did pick up the phone, though, to find out that "Brian" -- the story of a single guy (Barry Watson) and his group of coupled-up friends -- would, in fact, be back for a second season. It premieres at 10 p.m. ET Monday.
"We were all really rooting and being as supportive as we could and not making other plans," Detmer says of her castmates. "We were really holding on to the hope that it might stand a chance, and we got it."
The pickup wasn't based on ratings -- the show drew only about 6.3 million viewers in its Monday timeslot -- but on ABC Entertainment chief Steve McPherson's belief that "What About Brian" "was something we wanted to stick with," as he put it at May's upfronts. The prospect that executive producer J.J. Abrams -- whose directing of "Mission: Impossible III" kept him occupied most of last season -- might become more involved with the show also helped McPherson's decision.
Abrams isn't working with the show full-time, but his stamp on it is more evident. He brought in Josh Reims, who worked with Abrams on "Felicity," as an exec producer to work with creator Dana Stevens, and pushed the idea of covering more storytelling ground this season.
"My biggest concern [was] that the show Dana had pitched and I'd gotten excited about felt more promising in terms of story and conflict than had been realized," Abrams says. "I felt like we needed to do more in the show."
So, as the series begins its second season, six months have elapsed since Brian confessed his love to Marjorie (Sarah Lancaster) -- who just happens to be engaged to Brian's best friend, Adam (Matthew Davis). Following a blowup with Marjorie, Brian hit the road, and he returns home just days before the wedding.
Deena and her husband, Dave (Rick Gomez), meanwhile, are trying to put their relationship right after experimenting with an "open marriage." "This year is going to be great," Detmer says. "We're really having a blast, and they really fleshed out [Dave and Deena's] storyline."
In the episodes that have filmed so far, Detmer says, there aren't too many clues as to what's gone on in those missing six months. But, she adds, "I think it'll be interesting to find out. Given where we are right now, there might have been some lies told, and it might not all be hunky-dory."
Dave and Deena also find themselves caught in the crossfire of the Brian-Adam-Marjorie situation. "They're still struggling, I can say that much," she says. "There's a huge rift between the best friends, and Rick's character has to sort of take sides. There's a whole lot of drama."
That's just what Abrams was hoping to see.
"I think what people will feel [with season two] is that it's the same show, but on all cylinders," he says. "It's the same characters, but they're pushed harder and tested more. As a result, I think the show is funnier and more emotional. ... There's no question the series is, in my mind, a more entertaining show now than it's ever been."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times