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USA's 'In Plain Sight' is all right in front of us

THE SHOW "In Plain Sight," USA, Wednesday at 10 p.m.


REASON TO WATCH The third season begins for the hit series.


IT'S ABOUT U.S. Marshal Mary Shannon (Mary McCormack), whose job is to assimilate ex-cons and what-have-you into the Federal Witness Protection Program in Albuquerque (and Santa Fe). Even with her devoted partner, Marshall Mann (Fred Weller), along for the assist, the job's not as easy as it looks. And speaking of complications, Mary's got an extended family she lives with, which includes her on-again/off-again/on-again boy toy, Raphael Ramirez (Cristian de la Fuente); her mom, Jinx (Lesley Anne Warren), and sis, Brandi (Nichole Hiltz). None can (or do) ever know what she really does for a paycheck.


CATCHING UP The U.S. government wanted WITSEC (the witness protection program) to hide a Mexican political activist in Albuquerque, but the feds' real estate agent messes up by placing the lady in a particularly unsavory part of town - not good because Mary is shot when she gets in the middle of some trigger-happy gangbangers.


WHAT THE WEDNESDAY NIGHT'S ABOUT Surprise! Mary is just fine, except for the psychological aftermath of the shooting: She remembers everything except the face of the guy who nearly killed her - "I was shot by a smudge." Mann is pressuring one punk to turn in the shooter, but said punk resists. "You're like a crossword puzzle," Mann observes. "With BO."


GUEST STAR Jimmy (Donnie Walhberg) was tied up with the Boston mob before his forced trip out West with his son; he's now running a diner, and has money problems.


MY SAY "In Plain Sight" is a meat-and-mashed-potatoes cop show with an uncanny knack for knowing precisely what its fans want. No fancy dialogue. No highfalutin' plots or "arcs." (This is after all USA - not FX.) No razzle and no dazzle on the old acting front so that some star can assemble an Emmy reel. Fans want a simple story that'll pretty much be over by 11; plus, they want McCormack, whose Mary Shannon is just complicated and interesting enough to add the salt and pepper.


BOTTOM LINE The meat is overdone and the potatoes lumpy; but it all tastes just fine.


GRADE B-

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