CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
DVD Review: Mary McCormack Rocks in First Season of ‘In Plain Sight’
DVD Rating: 3.5/5.0
CHICAGO – “In Plain Sight” may not get the buzz or press of other cable hits like “Burn Notice” or “The Closer” and the show still needs some ironing out to truly live up to its potential but I watched every episode of this USA Network action drama when it aired and anxiously look forward to the new season (which we’ll review here on or just before its April 19th premiere) for one reason, Mary McCormack.
The opening narration of “In Plain Sight” sets the stage better than I possibly could - “Since 1970, the Federal Witness Protection Program has relocated thousands of witnesses - some criminal, some not - to neighborhoods all across the country. Every one of those individuals shares a unique attribute, distinguishing them from the rest of the general population. And that is, somebody wants them dead.”
McCormack, a Tony nominee and star of films including “Private Parts,” “Deep Impact,” and “1408,” is simply fantastic as U.S. Marshal Mary Shannon, deserving of Emmy nomination consideration for taking what could have been a two-dimensional, stereotypical “tough chick” role in the hands of a lesser actress and making her feel completely genuine.
In Plain Sight: Season One will be released on DVD on March 31st, 2009.
Photo credit: Universal Home Video
McCormack’s Shannon works for the Federal Witness Protection Program (also known as WITSEC), placing and monitoring people enrolled in the program. She spends her days protecting the lives of career criminals, murderers, liars, and the general scum of the Earth who warrant her hard work simply because they are now willing to testify. It’s not an easy job and the stress of it gets to Shannon and her partner Marshal Mann (Fred Weller, mostly around for comic relief but nicely developed into more later in the season).
As if her daily grind weren’t unusual enough, Mary has a flaky sister (Nichole Hiltz) who may or may not be involved in something shady herself, an on-again, off-again boyfriend (Cristian de la Fuente), and a troublemaking mother (Lesley Ann Warren). Todd Williams and Paul Ben-Victor co-star.
Like a lot of cable shows, “In Plain Sight” mixes both a “case of the week” format along with its series-long character development. For example, one week, in the best episode of season one entitled “Iris Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” Mary has to deal with relocating an entire, well-regarded family after their daughter sees an attempted gang murder, while also dealing with her mom, boyfriend, and nutty sister. It’s a great part and McCormack nails it.
Like “Burn Notice” in season one, sometimes the balance between the “case of the week” and the rest of the show can feel a bit off on “In Plain Sight”. Some of the cases aren’t as interesting as others and if it’s a bad weekly installment, it’s easy to long for more of the supporting characters and less of the action at the center of the piece. It’s something that will be worked out with time as the writing staff solidify which kind of cases work best for the show and how to balance the ensemble with them. “Burn Notice” was vastly improved in season two. I expect “In Plain Sight” will be too.
The twelve episodes of “In Plain Sight” are presented on three discs with an anamorphic widescreen transfer and a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Each episode includes an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The eps look and sound good, but it’s odd that a show that more and more people will have watched in HD hasn’t been given the Blu-Ray treatment. DVD used to be a step up technically from original broadcast but with the increasing prevalence of HD, it’s actually become a step down.
All three discs of season one include deleted scenes, a mildly interesting extra but where are the behind-the-scenes featurettes or a commentary on at least one episode? When a DVD buyer is committed to buying over nine hours of their favorite show, they are more likely than average to listen to a commentary track.
The lackluster special features and technical presentation bring down the overall rating, but “In Plain Sight” is a good show that I strongly suspect will become a great one soon. See where it began on DVD.