It's early March and the cast of J.J. Abrams' new ABC dramedy, What About Brian, are working overtime, thanks to reshoots with a new actress (Everwood's Sarah Lancaster) who stepped in at the last minute to play a corner of the show's love triangle. But the real problem on set today is Tom Cruise, who is roaming around the soundstage, visiting his Mission: Impossible III director, Abrams. As most of the cast gape at the movie star, only Lancaster stays away but not because she's playing it cool. ''I just want to keep him as this perfect being,'' she murmurs dreamily.
Alas, this is a story about the project Abrams is shepherding, not Cruise. And the show which premieres April 16 at 10 p.m. ventures away from Alias and Lost and into old-school Abrams territory: a perennially single titular character (7th Heaven's Barry Watson) surrounded by hitched friends. It could be sold as the male Felicity. ''I wanted to write about marriage, but I felt like the single guy was the perfect foil,'' says creator Dana Stevens (City of Angels), whom Abrams hails for her ''very distinct'' POV. Casting Brian was a challenge (''He has to be romantic, funny, sympathetic but he can't be a nerd,'' Stevens says), and Watson is thrilled to land a part he says leaves plenty of room for growth. ''I was this guy five years ago.... We'll see what happens if we can get this show going.'' Wait: if? ''You never know. They could cut us off in a second for the stupidest reason.'' Sheesh. Tom Cruise needs to teach that guy about optimism.