USA sets sights on 'Mary'

Picks up McCormack pilot to series

USA Network has picked up the pilot "Mary Sunshine" to series, ordering 11 additional episodes of the light drama starring Mary McCormack.

The project, previously known as "In Plain Sight," centers on Mary Shannon (McCormack), a U.S. Marshal who tries to balance her intense job at the witness-protection program with her equally intense and amusingly dysfunctional personal life.

The project hails from writer David Maples and NBC Universal Network TV. To accommodate star McCormack's pregnancy, production on the series is slated to begin in the summer for a launch in the fourth quarter or first-quarter 2008.

"When you've got something so good, you don't let it go," USA executive vp original programming Jeff Wachtel said of the network's pickup decision, even though the series won't be ready for about a year.

"It has a wonderfully skewed heroine at its center, and then there is Mary McCormack," he said in listing reasons for the order. "She is the heart and the soul of the series who brings a sexy spirit to it."

Following USA's success with such male-centered character-based series as "The Dead Zone," "Monk" and "Psych," the network brass had been looking for a show with a female lead.

"We liked that ('Mary's') a woman in a high-risk job, which brings a real action component to it," Wachtel said. "And we liked the irony that she has that high-risk job but can't tell anybody what she's doing."

"Mary," which co-stars Lesley Ann Warren, Frederick Weller, Todd Williams and Nichole Hiltz, is one of three pilots USA ordered last year.

The other two, "To Love and Die in L.A." and "Burn Notice," are still "in active contention," Wachtel said.

"Mary" is said to be compatible with other USA light dramas, including "Monk" and "Psych" as well as prospects "To Love and Die" and "Burn," but is expected to launch on its own, the way the network debuted the hits "Monk" and "The Dead Zone."