As Summer Shows Go, 'In Plain Sight' Is Cool

USA's characters are in danger of wearing out their welcome.

Consider the folks romping through "In Plain Sight," the latest offering in USA's not-much-ventured, just-enough-gained slate of quirk-based crime shows. While FX and AMC push the basic-cable boundaries with such ambitious shows as "Rescue Me" and "Mad Men," USA follows a less-adventurous route with "character-driven," comedy-tinged adventures. So you get "Monk," "Psych," "Burn Notice" and now "Sight,' which stars "West Wing'"s Mary McCormack as a wisecracking New Mexico marshal with the Witness Protection Program. It's a formula, but it's one that is fairly well-suited to viewers' summer desires. And as long as Sight sticks to the workplace, the formula pretty much works.

On the plus side, McCormack takes a generally enjoyable star turn as quick-to-anger, quick-talking Mary Shannon. And the show boasts a breakout performance by Frederick Weller as Mary's appealing partner, Marshall Mann, though the cutesy name is a good indication of Sight's heavy hand.

The writers overplay the banter and allow Mary to become so harsh, you wonder why even the most devoted partner puts up with her. But for the most part, as long as McCormack and Weller are together, or sharing time with their boss (Paul Ben-Victor), the show functions as harmless hot-weather pleasure.

Unfortunately, when Mary isn't working, she (and we) are forced to spend time with her useless, wayward mother and sister, played to an embarrassing hilt by Lesley Ann Warren and Nichole Hiltz. Mom drinks and cries; Sis vamps and smuggles drugs — one of those developing plots you don't want to see develop.

The goal, no doubt, is to draw a contrast between Mary's successful professional life and dysfunctional private one. But the characters are so annoyingly played and ridiculously conceived, you might think Mary should go into witness protection herself.

The New Mexico settings are pretty, as is Cristián de la Fuente as Mary's boyfriend. But her family's a dealbreaker, unless you record the show in advance and fast-forward whenever they appear.

They may not be out of mind, but at least they'll be out of sight.

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