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A Second First Look At: In Plain Sight

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McCormack as witness-protector Shannon. / USA Network Photo: Lewis Jacobs

USA network never sent me an advance screener of In Plain Sight, its new summer drama about U.S. marshal Mary Shannon (Mary McCormack), who’s assigned to guard people in the witness-protection program. So like a Henry Hill hiding in the suburbs at the end of Goodfellas, I had to turn on the TV and watch the program like a regular schnook.

I will admit up front that there’s a certain currently popular breed of summer programming that I can appreciate but don’t quite get: the just-good-enough drama. USA and TNT have made a specialty of these: largely procedural shows that are kinda smart but not really challenging, competent but not daring. There’s sort of the easy-listening counterparts to The Shield, Breaking Bad and other (for me) appointment-worthy basic-cable shows. The Closer, for instance, is fine. Burn Notice is fine. Psych—well, I haven’t watched it since the first couple episodes after it debuted, but at the time it was fine. I just can’t imagine ever going to any particular effort to watch any of them.

That said, In Plain Sight is a pretty good execution of just such a show, and actually even a little better. I’ve seen it compared with Karen Sisco, and although I wouldn’t put it in the same league after two episodes (it doesn’t have quite the same noirish melancholy streak that made Sisco memorable), it is, like Sisco, a sort of stepdaughter of The Rockford Files. Its procedural plots are nothing special, but it’s worth watching for Shannon’s character, a wisecracking semi-misfit who is good at protecting dislocated people for a living in part because she feels a little out of place. Dealing herself with a black-sheep sister and a mom who has questionable taste in the men she dates, she’s the perfect person to handle people who are trying to adapt to normal suburban lives, since, as you can tell, she doesn’t feel quite at home in a white-picket-fence world either. The scripts drop in nice bits of characterization, as Shannon mentions that she doesn’t “get” babies, for instance, or sheepishly reveals that she can’t whistle. And like Carla Gugino in Sisco, McCormack gives her an appealing, mature world-weariness.

Will I watch many more this summer? Probably not! But I can see why someone else would. Anyone else try this show out yet?