I suppose it was inevitable that someone would devise a series like In Plain Sight [ISA 10/9C], about the trials and tribulations of a U.S. Federal Marshall who works with the Witness Protection Program. Such a series means that we have a widely varied series of people who have only one thing in common: somebody wants them dead… Mary Shannon [Mary McCormack] and her partner, Marshall Mann [Frederick Weller] are the marshals in question and it’s she who is focal point of the series.
Mary is a brusque, sarcastic bulldozer of woman, though you wouldn’t know it to look at her – but once she starts talking… Her partner is maybe as smart as her but he’s considerably more laid back. This is because he doesn’t have to deal with her deranged family – mother, Jinx [Lesley Anne Warren] and younger sister, Brandy [Nicole Hiltz]. Neither is employed – though Jinx tries her hand at an Avon lady-type job in the premiere. Then there’s Mary’s overworked boss, Stan McQueen [Invisible Man’s Paul Ben-Victor], who is usually not sure he wants to know about her cases – as long as they work out.
In the premiere, In Plain Sight, we meet Mary on a reasonably good day [which is to say she hasn’t had to tear a strip off anyone… yet]. That’s before she has to deal with Frankie Amato and his family. Frankie was caught red-handed after a hit and turned informant to stay out of jail. The problem comes when Frankie’s son is killed – after the family was placed in the program. “Hoosier Daddy” finds Mary dealing with a ten-year old boy who witnessed his mother’s murder and agrees to testify against the killer[s] – the kicker being that his father is one of them! In Iris Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, she has to deal with a black family whose patriarch refuses to follow the rules because he worked hard to become what he is – no matter what danger that might put his family in.
The series is terrific when it deals with Mary’s job. The people she works with, and the people she has to place in new lives, are all fascinating. These parts of the show are well written, move briskly and have some marvelous – if black – humor. Where the show loses steam, is with Mary’s family – and her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Raphael [Christian de la Fuente]. Jinx is so badly written that even I, who love Lesley Anne Warren, want to see her die horribly. Brandy is Jinx, only younger. If an intelligent thought were to cross either woman’s mind, she’d have a seizure! Raphael is, so far, just eye candy for the female audience, and the only thing we know about him is that he’s good in bed – but is man enough to “have a headache” when he doesn’t feel like performing.
If Mary’s family gets a little – okay, a lot – more depth, maybe the show will be wonderful. At the moment, the fun quotient is about sixty-forty – enough to recommend it, but not quite wholeheartedly.
Final Grade: C+