Review: ‘In Plain Sight’

On the coattails of last summer’s USA Network surprise hit “Burn Notice” comes “In Plain Sight,” about a overworked U.S. Marshal balancing family dysfunction with secretly keeping federal witnesses alive and safe. While not as spontaneous or free-spirited as “Burn Notice,” there is potential for another great USA Network series if the show can find its focus.

Mary Shannon (Mary McCormack) is a U.S. Marshal working in the highly secretive branch of the witness protection program (WITSEC) relocating federal witnesses. Some are career criminals turning on their former partners while some are innocents who saw the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time. As the narration laments during the opening credits, “They all have one thing in common… someone wants them dead.” But with a deadbeat mom, a criminally-inclined little sister, and a friend-with-benefits pushing for a more traditional relationship, to say that Mary’s plate is full would be an understatement.

There are several elements in common with last summer’s “Burn Notice,” especially the disgruntled home life that isn’t allowed to know what the main character does. Over the three episodes, this seemed the most contrived, because Mary McCormack is fascinating to watch and is complex enough to hold our attention. The later episodes both suggest that the home life silliness is merely a vehicle for future stories that will personally involve the main character, but that could also be to resolve an arc that wasn’t working to begin with.

What does work for the show is Fred Weller as Marshall Mann (yes, that makes him “Marshal Marshall”), a platonic friend and co-worker in WITSEC that has an almost Zen-like quality to his character. Obviously educated and intelligent, Marshall doesn’t miss much and asserts himself with deadly precision. It wouldn’t surprise me if we found out he was a former Navy Seal or even in WITSEC himself (that name is too hilarious to be real) but it’s obvious that Shannon puts implicit trust in his abilities. In one episode, just his tone of voice is enough to convince you he’s not someone to mess with when he goes into “all-business” mode.

I was given the opportunity to watch the pilot for this show and a couple of episodes in no particular order. The primary element that separates “In Plain Sight” from other such shows are the characters in WITSEC itself. Again, some are the criminal element while others are just witnesses to crimes. No matter which camp they fall into, all of them have to abandon their former lives and have their previous identities erased, not an easy thing when you’ve spent your whole life building a family and career (don’t look for a revival of My Blue Heaven here). For this reason, “In Plain Sight” transcends the Robin Hood complex and sense of adventure that “Burn Notice” happily wallows in to becomes more adult fare. As the presumably later episodes suggest, this is the tone that the show seems to be moving toward and should succeed at as long as the writing can keep up with the premise.

“In Plain Sight” premieres this Sunday, June 1st on USA Network.

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