Judging by its title, you might think that the ABC drama "What About Brian" is simply about a scruffy, thirtysomething surfer dude who just can't quite figure out what to do with his life. But you'd be wrong.
Like Miranda Bailey on "Grey's Anatomy," "What About Brian" features a strong supporting mom character who is authentically struggling with her career, her precarious child care set-up and her identity. A major thread running through the second season of "What About Brian" is the troubled marriage between Dave and Deena Greco, parents of three girls, including a 1-year-old. In the first year of the show, Deena was an at-home mom while Dave co-owned a video gaming company. But during the program's second season, not only has Dave lost his company, but the couple has separated, leaving Deena despairing over what to do with her life.
In scenes reminiscent of "Once and Again" -- the Sela Ward drama about divorced parents that was canceled way before its time - Deena found herself at a crossroads when her daughters were in their father's care and she was left with nothing to do. "I have no idea what to do next," she tearfully told the friend with whom she was staying. "Who am I? What do I do? . . . It's like I cashed in my entire personality, I mean, my being for my children. And now I'm just this lump of flesh sitting on a stupid couch."
As her friend reassured her that she's a great mother who has done a wonderful job raising her children, Deena said she was frightened because children "grow up. And they leave. And then what am I gonna do, huh?" Deena answered her own question soon thereafter by starting her own cupcake catering business and tirelessly promoting it when she wasn't with her kids. However, in subsequent episodes, she and her estranged husband wound up arguing over child care issues and over whose work meetings took precedence. The parents eventually wound up putting the kids in day care.
"What About Brian" has showcased some honest talk and raw expressions of the fears that some women, who've taken a time-out from their careers, harbor in the backs of their minds but rarely give voice to. When you're an at-home mom, what happens to you when your children -- into whom you've poured everything -- grow up and leave? Or, if your marriage falls apart? The program also deals frankly with Deena's anxiety over the bumpy re-launching of her career and addresses touchy issues without demonizing either parent or assigning angelic halos. The Greco family's difficulties are handled untidily, just like they are in most people's lives, the ones led behind closed doors.
Though a recent storyline could've been worrisome - a daycare worker noticed that Dave and Deena's 1-year-old had suffered significant hearing loss and both parents blamed themselves for not discovering it sooner because they were busy with their jobs - there was no judgment or blaming of the mom, a trap into which many TV programs fall prey.
A former full-time at-home mom who was left by her husband of several decades, last year wrote a column in the New York Times urging today's at-home mothers to keep their fingers in the work world, or to further their education in order to equip themselves with skills onto which they could fall back if their marriages fall apart. The writers of "What About Brian" apparently took that message to heart and Deena Greco embodies it, handling major life upheavals like a mere mortal: Messily, but honestly.
You can catch up on episodes of the "What About Brian" on the ABC web site.