'In Plain Sight'


The League of Tough Women Law Enforcers, which includes "The Closer's" Brenda Johnson and "Saving Grace's" Grace Hanadarko, now welcomes Mary Shannon (Mary McCormack) into its ranks. Independent, strong-willed and sexy in a physical but not romantic way, Shannon is a U.S. marshal for the witness protection program in USA Network's "In Plain Sight."

Away from the job and her second-banana partner (Frederick Weller), she tries to keep her trampy sister (Nichole Hiltz) and ditzy mother (Lesley Ann Warren) from going too far off the deep end. In other words, she's got time for everyone's problems but her own: an inability to sustain an intimate relationship.

Some people in the witness protection program are criminals; others are merely victims of circumstance — people who know or who saw too much. Based on the first three episodes, children and teens tend to vanish as often as their elders, ensuring a number of predictable emotional scenes every week.

Shannon lives and works in Albuquerque, N.M., a locality that almost makes a witness protection program seem redundant. Keep a low profile during the balloon festival and you're pretty well set for another year.

In the 76-minute premiere (future episodes are one hour at 10 p.m. Sundays), a hitman-turned-informant and his wife and teenage son are relocated to the Land of Enchantment. When the son and a local girl are killed, Shannon has to figure out whether the murder is a Mafia payback or the homicidal work of a local.

The pilot has its problems. McCormack's Shannon has more testosterone than a Marine platoon, and her partner gets lost in her shadow. Fortunately, the excesses also were obvious to others, as well. In subsequent episodes, McCormack dials back her character, Weller gets more to do, and the series gets more watchable.

Apart from its New Mexico setting and witness protection angle, little stands out here. Stories are less than suspenseful and characters are mainly two-dimensional. On the other hand, McCormack's kick-ass performance is a pretty good alternative to network reruns or mind-numbing reality slop.