“In Plain Sight” is a little too plain


I’m frustrated and I blame it on Mary McCormack.

No, not that kind of frustration, although McCormack certainly could provoke it. I’m talking about the feeling that comes when a highly anticipated show falls short, as is the case with USA’s In Plain Sight.

In Plain Sight, which was called Mary Sunshine when first announced, stars McCormack as Mary Shannon, a U.S. Marshal who relocates and protects people in the witness protection program. Mary is a strong, independent woman who is good at her job and is treated as an equal by other officers, including her quirky partner, Marshall (Fred Weller). Marshal Marshall, heh!

Sounds like a great premise, right? Early reviews suggested that In Plain Sight would serve as the female equivalent to another successful USA series, Burn Notice. I even read a comparison to the much-lamented Karen Sisco. Plus, the fab Lesley Ann Warren plays Mary’s mom, Jinx. Cool.

The series seemed to have a lot going for it. Guest stars so far have included Dave Foley, Sherry Stringfield and Jane Adams. The episode titles are very punny: “Hoosier Daddy,” “Trojan Horst,” “Who Shot Jay Arnstein.” The show has pop culture references galore — a mob informant named Frankie Nuts, tuna casserole with Velveeta and a potato chip crust, and Columbo, Sex and the City and Showgirls allusions. Dang, I want to like this show.

But I don’t. As seems to be en vogue for strong TV women, Mary’s personal life is a mess. For one thing, she’s not very nice — OK, she’s a bitch. She’s always in a bad mood and treats Marshall like a lackey. Mary’s mom is a flake and her sister, Brandy (Nicole Hiltz), is a crook. Her ballplayer boyfriend Raphael (Cristian de la Fuente) is, for no reason I can see, crazy about her, but she seems to have no real interest in him outside the bedroom.

If Mary’s home life served the story, I could forgive the cliché. But it adds nothing. And despite the built-in tension of protecting federal witnesses, the plot lines are just sort of blah. The writing doesn’t live up to the show’s promise. And that’s frustrating. So why blame Mary McCormack? Because she won me over in The West Wing and I want to see more of her. Because she deserves a breakout role. And because she looks so good in a tank top.

Have you watched In Plain Sight? What do you think? Does the show deserve a chance to get better?

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