In Plain Sight
If you were wondering just what that extra dollar buys you when you upgrade to HD in the iTunes store, you can get a free look. Our pals over at TUAW made note of a number of shows that have free episodes available, in HD. The files are large, with the HD versions clocking in at right around 1.5GB, so it will take a bit to download. Something that isn't helped by the fact that iTunes downloads the SD version as well.
I've been taking a look at them and I grabbed screenshots from Heroes, Life, and Battlestar Galactica to give you an idea of the difference in the picture. It's fairly dramatic. Those captures, and the full list of free episodes, with the iTunes links, are after the jump.
After nearly eleven hours (give or take) of Mary's frustration with her mother and sister, it all came to a head. Directed by John Badham (Saturday Night Fever), this was an episode heavy on the drama, and he did a great job balancing the FBI investigation, Marshall and Stan's efforts to save Mary's career, and the family dynamics. From the first scene between the Shannons, there was no question that this was not going to be a warm and fuzzy examination of their feelings. Mary dropped the hammer when she told Jinx and Brandi how much trouble they were in.
What an opening act! What a set up! This seemed to be the first of the two-part finale for season one, and in this penultimate episode, the writers really delivered a knockout. I think we're finally getting that clash of Mary's personal and professional life that's been building from the pilot when Brandi showed up.
The abduction of Mary was well done because they chloroformed her. If she weren't drugged, she would have not been overpowered. As it was, she nearly got away. Of course, they thought they were grabbing Brandi so why did they need to knock her out? Also -- continuity error -- Russell said they grabbed the first hot blonde that came out of the house. That's not where Mary was snatched; she was in the alley outside the theater.
Nancy Franklin is often good in her analysis of a TV show or a TV genre, but she seems to have gotten tired of Burn Notice already. While she likes the Miami location and loves Bruce Campbell (deservedly so), she thinks the show is already getting tired. She's not buying the tension between Michael and Fiona, and she thinks the mom/Michael stuff is just too much. She also compares Jeffrey Donovan to Frank Gorshin's Riddler from Batman, which isn't fair (she also gets a fact wrong - Sam is not secretly reporting on Michael to the government, Michael knows about it).
Remember the Russian girl from the pilot? Natasha with the new boobs -- thanks to the U.S. government, our tax dollars -- has gotten a job at Headlights (nee Hooters) and has hooked up with a new guy.
Turns out he's Marshall's charge, another program member, Serge. The problem is not just the huge coincidence that they've hooked up, it's that she's a witness and he's a felon, they cannot stay together.
I liked the case of a Chicago cop doing a "Serpico" -- going undercover to rat out police corruption -- and winding up killing a fellow officer in self-defense and being forced into Witness Protection was on target. And unlike the ridiculous Russian girl in the pilot who was asking WITSEC for new breasts, this was a realistic relocation. He resented being stuck in Albuquerque, and proving that he wasn't a stone, he was attracted to Mary. Of course, Mary did cross a line by sleeping with the guy, but that was all right, too, because it proved that she wasn't a stone, too. And since it was back story, it was pre-Raphael.
That's how I felt about this show. While it was an interesting examination of a couple facing a dilemma while at the same time being in Witness Protection, there were elements that made me cringe.
Marshall got as much to do as Mary, for a change, and was equally involved on an emotional level. Too often, Frederick Weller's character has been reduced to Mary's sidekick and support system. Not this week.
The credit for this show likely goes to veteran director Sam Weisman. Bring this man back! He gets In Plain Sight and has a feel for the wry humor off-setting the real drama.
Episodes like this just make a show; they really do. In Plain Sight is about Witness Protection, yes, but it's more about Mary Shannon.
Mary doesn't go looking for this case, she's just bringing in her crap car for service. Her mechanic is Scott, who it turns out, was Mary's very first WITSEC client. Mary gave Scott and his 10-year-old brother, Chris, new lives after they witnessed a bookie murder another bookie.
Parenthetically, Scott invites Mary and Marshall to watch Chris play basketball at the university. The kid's got mad skills and is projected to be an NBA star, natch, but something's amiss. Chris is hitting up Mary for $3,000, which we learn is out of bounds for decade-long WITSEC clients.
Gallery: In Plain Sight: High Priced Spread
Granted, this show isn't a serial, but I did expect at least a moment between Mary and Marshall that would connect back beyond her quip in the art gallery. It was too glib. Would it have killed them to have a moment? I can imagine a fight in the writer's room over this point and keeping it light and unemotional won.
Gallery: In Plain Sight-Jay Arnstein
The set up has Marshall and Mary taking custody of a seemingly innocuous, diabetic, asthmatic accountant/arranger for a hit man named Lola. He's been caught in an FBI sting and will go WITSEC in exchange for "delivering" Lola.
Expertly played by Dave Foley (News Radio), he's just enough of an unctuous ass to make him amusing. When Mary throws him to the ground and pounces on him, he says, "Could you get off of me, you're not exactly petite."
The role was very much like Charles Grodin, a mob accountant, in the movie Midnight Run, with Robert DeNiro as the bounty hunter forced to take him cross country. (If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and rent it; it's great!)
Gallery: In Plain Sight-Trojan Horst
Mary's newest witness to be protected is a con artist, bigamist scumbag -- Mary's words -- named Treena. She ripped off her previous husband while on a Hawaiian honeymoon, getting away with $10 million in conflict diamonds before being arrested by the FBI. When Mary is forced to take Treena under her wing, she makes no secret of her antipathy for people of her ilk, saying, "God I hate con artists, even more than murderers."
There's an instant conflict between Treena and Mary, the uncooperative witness and unhappy marshal. Mary suspects that Treena is playing her and the system. She warns her that if you hang onto garbage from your past, sooner to later it starts to stink.
The machinations to get Treena into the WITSEC program is the first leap of faith in the episode. The second comes when she allows her picture to appear in the newspaper, announcing her sixth wedding.
Gallery: In Plain Sight-Never A Bride
I was stunned that she pulled it off, and when we were back in the present and we see little Lonny -- now Leo -- enjoying a perfect life with the Billups, I was skeptical. The adoption seemed too good to be true. Leo fit right in, taking care of the baby. Were the Billups for real? I thought there had to be something wrong, but it wasn't. I was just suspicious. It turns out there was a reason to show Lonny/Leo in such a happy family.
Gallery: In Plain Sight 2
The series presents Mary McCormack (The West Wing) as Mary Shannon, a U.S. Marshal for the Witness Protection Program, living and working in Albuquerque, New Mexico. To say that Mary is a bitch is an understatement. She's aggressive and grumpy and hard to take. As the pilot played out, Mary showed glimpses of a softer side, a need to fix the problems of others that led to her career protecting and serving those in the Witness Protection Program. However, unlike USA's other quirky character dramas, In Plain Sight doesn't have the charm of Burn Notice, the wit of PSYCH, nor the whimsy of Monk. It may be that this pilot was just overstuffed with too much of Mary's life, but overall, there's not much in Mary Shannon's life worth watching.
Gallery: In Plain Sight - Premiere
I participated in a conference call this week with McCormack and her co-star Fred Weller (Law & Order: Criminal Intent), who dished about the show and each other. It's clear they have an easy-going camaraderie that will no doubt carry over into the series, and I look forward to checking it out.
Created and written by David Maples (Home Improvement, Huff), and executive produced by Maples and Paul Stupin (Dawson's Creek, Beautiful People), the dramedy revolves around the super-secret U.S. Witness Protection Program (WITSEC).
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