Thursday, July 10, 2008

TV: Mary McCormack's Outta Sight!

I have never hidden my total enrapture with Mary McCormack. She first popped up on my little screen in Murder One a decade and a bit ago. Then she was a mainstay on West Wing for a couple of years. There have been other parts here and there, but that's the progression she followed to her present starring role as U.S. Marshal Mary Shannon in the USA series In Plain Sight.

In the other shows, she always played a put-together second banana who just refused to stay in the shadows. Good looks are one thing. And McCormack's got them. But she just seemed so damn competent in each of her roles. She's competent in In Plain Sight. Still beautiful. Put together?

Not so much.

Hey, it's called 'acting' and she's playing against her own stereotype on this show. She's macho to the point of cowing partner Marshal Marshall Mann, played entertainingly by Fred Weller, and her boss, Stan McQueen, played with the usual unctuousness by Paul Ben-Victor. (As an aside, I believe Ben-Victor's character was originally going to be called John Booth, John WILKES Booth! They decided that having fun with Mann's name was enough in that area). She gets away with her domineering ways by being pretty good at her job. It's the only up-tick in her life.

Otherwise, she's a mess. Boyfriend/"Friend with Benefits" Raphael is more the latter than the former. Things get complicated when he's called up the majors (He's a minor-league ball player) and subsequently proposes marriage to the sooo-not-so-ready to get married Mary. She says no, he flies off, watched wistfully by Mary, unable to get to the airport to do ...

That's the thing. We aren't sure what she would have done. Probably kissed him off. I'm guessing, cuz he's back an episode or two later, injured on her couch recuperating.

He's not the only housemate at the Shannon house. Mary's little sister, the beloved baby of the family and a little criminally insane, shows up to bunk down in the first episode. She joins the mother of the two girls, Jinx, played unlovingly by Lesley Ann Warren. I am of an age to remember the beautiful young dancer that Warren was in her early days. Those days are long gone. She's shrill, ridiculous and a show-stopper on this show. If the show is to have any longevity, Jinx has to go. Mary's sister Brandi, played by Nichole Hiltz, can stay. But the suitcase full of drugs better come into play sooner rather than later.

By now, if you haven't seen the show, you're probably wondering what Mary and Marshall, the marshals do. They shepherd entrants to the Witness Protection program, trying to keep witnesses and the odd miscreant snitch alive long enough to testify and prosper. Every now and then, the stories veer over into police territory where the very black Bobby Dershowitz ("It's a long story.") runs straight into bureaucratic red tape from Mary. Mary and Bobby D. have chemistry that seems at a higher level than that of Mary and Raphael. A long-term run for the show could end up in a Janet Evanovich-like situation with Mary playing the Stephanie Plum role between two very different, but ardent admirers.

You could do a lot worse. And anything that keeps Mary McCormack on the screen is a good thing.

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