Five Awesome Things About In Plain Sight

(It’s late, I know, I’m sorry! I tried! I beg your forgiveness!)

For those of you who enjoy Doctor Who, I hope you liked my three Doctor Who-related posts.  For those who aren’t much interested in Doctor Who, I thank you for your patience.  I’m moving away from the science fiction today to talk about one my favorite shows.

In Plain Sight.

Yes, it’s another crime drama/police procedural (sort of) tv show.  (I told you practically all I watch is scifi and crime shows!)  And it’s awesome!  And, while it has a decent following and has managed to stay on air for four seasons now, I don’t think it gets as much attention as it deserves.

Tell me, how many of you have seen an episode?  How many of you watch it regularly?

In many ways, it is a lot like any other crime drama you’ve got your crime/dilemma of the week that must be resolved within the show’s hour-long time frame, and it focuses (like so many other police procedurals) on two partners.  But it is also very different.  The show combines the different with the familiar very well.  Also, it’s awesome.  Did I mention that?  Yeah?  Well, here are a few reasons why.

Awesomeness #1: In Plain Sight is about two U.S. Marshals who work for WitSec, the Federal Witness Protection Program, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Rather than always having a solve a crime every episode (though that still happens), the two partners in this show must instead work to keep their witnesses safe: often from the hitmen and corporate schemers trying to silence them, and usually from their own stupidity and mistakes.  The wide-range of characters keeps the show interesting as the Marshals (and the audience) get to know and loath/pity ex-cons, children in the wrong place at the wrong time, drug dealers, Russian Mafia girlfriends, Amish house-wives, South American revolutionaries, and former hitmen, just to name a few.  While every crime show displays a variety of characters as victims and/or criminals each episode, the circus of personalities and neuroses paraded across the screen during the hour of In Plain Sight is pretty damn impressive.

Awesomeness #2: The U.S. Marshals is the oldest federal law enforcement agency in the country.  They are part of the executive branch of the government, and are the enforcement arm of the United States federal courts.  And they’re just plain COOL.  Plus, while focusing a show on the Marshals would have been cool either way, the usual groups within the Marshals might have been too similar to any other cop show. Focusing on WitSec gives it an entirely different spin and keeps it fresh.  (Check out the Wikipedia page for my info about the U.S. Marshals.)

Awesomeness #3: The partners: Inspector Marshal Mary Shannon and Inspector Marshal Marshall Mann (yes, his name is Marshall and he is a Marshal, you can guess how often that joke comes up), are PERFECT.

The main character is Mary (played by Mary McCormack): tough-as-nails (it’s a cliché that I maintain was created FOR this character), sarcastic, cynical, more than a little bitchy, but HILARIOUS and hiding just enough compassion beneath the snarkiness to make her likable.  Her backstory makes her bitchiness believable and forgivable: abandoned at age 10 by her bank-robber/con father, and left to take care of her drunken mother and baby sister who even now drain her dry with their many many neuroses and problems, including her sister’s stint as an accessory to drug-dealing in the first season it’s no wonder Mary has trust issues, dependency issues, love/relationship issues… the list goes on.  Through it all, however, she is really good at her job, even if she bends the rules a little more often than her boss would like, and she at least tries to care about her witnesses, whether they were innocent bystanders or ex-mafia hitmen.

Marshall (played by Fred Weller) is many things Mary is not: incredibly smart (a trivia-spouting, bookworm, philosophical type Mary’s intelligent but not particularly academic), extremely well-adjusted, patient, forgiving, trusting, etc.  He’s also one hell of a shot, fiercely protective, and downright scary when pushed to his limit.  And, he’s about the only person who is a) able, b) masochistic, and c) smart enough to not only deal with Mary’s bitchiness but also to know what lies beneath it.  He can dish it out as well as receive it, and he’s just as hilarious as Mary, though usually with a somewhat more dry, subtle brand of sarcasm than Mary’s.

The two characters are absolutely perfect on screen together (also they’re simply a joy to look at).  The chemistry between the two is amazing and I don’t mean just the unresolved sexual tension, though there’s plenty of that (yay!) I mean the way the two play off each other, the rhythm of their dialogue, the visual cues and facial expressions that do as much and sometimes more than they dialogue by itself is capable of.  Speaking of…

Awesomeness #4:  Yes, the dialogue in this show is amazing.  The fact that the chemistry between the characters/actors makes up so much of the charm of the show does not for one second take away from how good the dialogue is.  I want to grab the writers of this show and kiss them!  The balance of intelligence, sarcasm, wit, humor, all the usual crime-drama factoid/theory-throwing, with a touch of philosophical rambling, is spot on.  The bounciness (is that a word) of the dialogue (especially when several conversations are going on at once) is fantastic. I wish I could write dialogue like this!  From Season 1, Episode 1 “Trojan Horst” (I tried to find a youtube video, but they’ve mostly been taken down):

Marshall: Hey. Okay, obviously you want me to go on a fishing expedition to figure out what the hell is bothering you. But I’m not going to play that. So, when you decide to tell me what’s wrong, you just tell me. Fair enough? Fair enough?

Mary: Don’t worry about it. In a couple of months, we won’t even be working together.

Guard: Opening two! Clear!

Marshall: You read my letter.


Horst: Easy there, meat and potatoes. (GRUNTS) I’m a valuable Federal resource. (GROANS)

Guard: Horst Vanderhof for transport.

Mary: Thanks.

Horst: Oh, great. Two more minimum-wage geniuses. Are the Feds trying to get me killed? Do you people have any idea who Lola is? Hey, watch it there, pervoid. I don’t swing that way.

Marshall: I can’t believe you read my mail.

Mary: Well, you don’t know I always read your mail. He’s diabetic?

Guard: Type 1. Last page of the medical.

Horst: Yeah, that’s my personal stuff.

Mary: Get a number.

Horst: I did. Twenty minutes ago.

Mary: Test again. I need to know you’re fit to travel.

Marshall: She needs to know everything about everybody.

Horst: I can tell. She’s been undressing me with her eyes ever since I walked out here.

Mary: Yeah, because pasty accountant types really get me crazy.

Horst: Oh, now, that’s just unkind.

Mary: So, were you ever going to tell me? Or was the plan just to let me figure it out when you stopped showing up for work?

Marshall: Actually, I was going to write a letter and then mail it to myself. That way, I’d be sure you got the news.

Mary: Hmm.


Horst: Staying alive at 105.

Mary: You know, please don’t act like you’re the injured party here, okay? At least show me that much respect.

Marshall: Respect? When have you ever shown me respect? Or anyone else for that matter?

Horst: (SIGHS) This is fun.

Mary: Maybe you’d get respect if you ever actually did something to earn it.

Marshall: And you wonder why I didn’t share my future plans with you.

Mary: No. What I wonder is why I put up with your insipid running commentary for the past three years. Come on. Let’s go.

Horst: (STAMMERING) 3-to-1, I’m dead before we get to the car. Yeah, brains blown out all over the parking lot. And then the two most annoying people on the planet bickering over my lifeless corpse.

Mary: Relax, Horst. No one knows who you are, where you are, or where you’re going. Give me the keys. I’m driving.

Marshall: Try not to drive like you stole it.

Awesomeness #5: Paul Ben-Victor.  Okay, okay, so you’re all looking at me like I’m completely nuts now.  Don’t deny it, I can see you gaping at me with your mouths wide open.  But seriously, Paul Ben-Victor.  No, he’s not exactly a looker.  But you know what?  He doesn’t need to be, because he is just that awesome.  I first came to adore him in the short-lived SciFi Channel show The Invisible Man, where he played Robert “Bobby” Hobbes, a secret government agent partnered to Darien Fawkes “The Invisible Man.”  On In Plain Sight, Paul Ben-Victor plays Stan McQueen, the Chief Inspector of WitSec’s Southwest Division, Mary and Marshall’s boss.  Stan is an odd mix of awkward and dense, smart and tough, loyal and protective.  He is possibly the only boss smart enough and understanding enough to deal with Mary giving her leeway when she needs it and putting his foot down when she deserves it.  The character often runs the risk of becoming almost cartoonishly comical, especially in the first season.  However, the writers gave the character a little more depth in action and dialogue, and Paul Ben-Victor brought the character into real-life humanity with his wonderful sense of timing, and his fantastic facial expressions.  (Yes, I’m gushing.  Deal.)

I’m sure there’s plenty more I could say, but I’ll stop here.  You’ll notice I was very careful not to give away too much and after almost four full seasons, there’s PLENTY I could give away.  I do this because seasons 1-3 are available for streaming on Netflix and season 4 is still showing on USA (every Sunday at 10/9c)!  That means you can go and see for yourself!  Aren’t I sweet?

So, who’s seen In Plain Sight?  Do you concur with my assessment?  If not, I’d love to hear why (so I can devise ways of convincing you otherwise 😀 j/k).  If you haven’t seen it yet, what’s keeping you?  Go!


4 thoughts on “Five Awesome Things About In Plain Sight

  1. I wholeheartedly concur. In Plain Sight is my absolute favorite show and I’ve watched from the first episode. Words can’t express how much I adore Mary & Marshall. They play off each other perfectly and underneath is a deep well of affection. I actually care about many of the witnesses, not something one finds in many procedurals. The dialogue has always been great, but has just sparkled this season. And Stan! I love Stan, I’m so happy Paul BV has been given an opportunity to expand his character this season.

    I am one that hopes Mary & Marshall do get together, but obviously this season’s obstacles must be dealt with. Marshall gets her and Mary comes as close to letting Marshall in as she will with anyone.

    I agree that IPS does not seem to garner the attention it deserves, not even from USA network. But it’s fans are loyal and some of us are rabid 🙂

    • You are very wise, especially when you agree with me. ^_^ j/k!

      But yes, while I can live without the romance angle most of the time, in this case I would LOVE to see Mary and Marshall finally get together. Though, I would be content if they saved it for a series finale sort of thing, though that series finale better not come any time soon or I’ll DEFINITELY be rabid. We are definitely loyal if nothing else.

      Thanks so much for commenting.

  2. Viewer since its premiere, and IPS has remained first and foremost favorite show for me. Chemistry, dialogue, acting… all fluid & clever & *intelligent*. Adore all three leads; each actor is very close to the character they portray, carrying over that natural feel to their performance.

    You’re right: IPS does not get nearly the exposure & kudos it deserves. The word must be spread… :~)

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