Screensavors: Mean marshal Mary

You've got to love a series with a black policeman named Dershowitz.

mary 88 (photo credit: )
mary 88
(photo credit: )
Mary Shannon is one tough lady. She curses, snarls and even pushes a table into a poor guy's family jewels during the pilot of In Plain Sight, the USA network import recently debuted on YES Stars 2. No, you wouldn't want to run into Mary in a dark alley, let alone the men's room, where she leaves a suspect on the ground after a below-the-belt maneuver and a nasty comment about his manhood. But, after 90 minutes of Mary's take-no-prisoners marshalling for the Federal Witness Protection Program, In Plain Sight left me frustrated that it's not better. Don't get me wrong; Mary McCormack (Kate Harper for several seasons in The West Wing and Debbie in ER) is crackerjack as Mary in this new series. Along with her partner Marshal ("Yes, his name is Marshal and he really is a marshal - sometimes that's just how the universe works," Mary observes), they protect those who've been given new identities. "On any given day I get to play mother, father, best friend, priest, rabbi and marriage counselor…" notes Mary of her job, which mostly involves talking tough, breaking down doors and threatening to smack or shoot someone if they don't cooperate. It's just that we've been overrun lately with tough lady cop shows. The most recent one being Saving Grace with Holly Hunter, almost a carbon copy of this show: the same tough woman law enforcement officer with family problems, relationship problems, etc. Nonetheless, the USA network's In Plain Sight has enough going for it to make for entertaining viewing about half the time. While the plot, about a former NY mobster whose son ends up dead after the family relocates to Albuquerque, New Mexico along with a local girl, becomes jumbled, the script does offer some real gems. For example, when the mobster's wife threatened to shoot him for ruining her life, Mary offers, "Here's the thing: Men lie. They cheat. They start wars. They're slobs, unless they're gay, and there are precious few of them walking the earth that are worth putting on lipstick for." And, when Mary tries to threaten a Native American bartender by warning that "Uncle Sam will go all Little Big Horn on your ass," the barkeep calmly sets her straight, explaining that it was his side that kicked butt at Little Big Horn. Attempts to insure we know this is Indian country (such as the inclusion of a needless native ceremony) are superfluous. It's as if someone is sending smoke signals to say: Look, Native Americans on TV. Though, you've got to love a series with a black policeman named Dershowitz ("It's a long story," he explains). Add to that what may be the first sign language come-on line delivered in a cop show (from Marshal to a deaf-mute chambermaid, who proceeds to slap him for it) and you've got almost enough reason to tune in. Leaving Mary to chase the bad guys just isn't enough. And her complex family life, which includes a cocaine-addicted sister, an alcoholic mother (wonderfully played by veteran TV and theater star Lesley Anne Warren) and a steamy but sputtering love affair with boyfriend Raphael, derails the plot too often at the expense of our overall interest. With W. G. "Snuffy" Warden, the great TV and film music man at work here, we don't also need the teary Paul Simon song "Something So Right" to back up Mary's confusion over her relationship with Raphael - who naturally appears more with his shirt off than on. "How can someone who burns so hot be so cold?" he wonders aloud after Mary explains their relationship just isn't working. Neither does this part of the otherwise promising show. So what've we got? A well-written, if sometimes rambling effort with some fun characters and some unnecessary back story that hopefully gets trimmed in later episodes. Cruising with Mary and Marshall in the name of witness protection could be a hoot if they tighten the plots. In the meantime, stay out of her way - especially in the men's room. In Plain Sight airs Mondays at 10:30 p.m. on YES Stars 2.