Friday, June 20, 2008

In Plain Sight: Veronica Mars, All Grow'd Up

As much time as I spend watching USA, it’s always for reruns of SVU or House. I’ve never gotten into any of their original series. Until now. In Plain Sight is the one that’s finally won me over and, thankfully, given me something new to watch this summer.

Mary is a U.S. Marshal with the Witness Protection Program. She’s a badass, smart-mouthed blonde crime-fighter who has problems with authority figures, intimacy, and her dysfunctional family. In short, she is Veronica Mars’ long-lost big sister.

Like any good heroine (and like Veronica), Mary’s got some capital-I Issues. The exact roots of her interpersonal problems and pessimism have yet to be determined, but we’ve gotten some hints that she’s got Daddy Issues. Dad committed a crime and ditched the family. Plus her mom’s kind of an idiot and her sister’s a skanky cokehead. And they’re both living in her house. So, y’know, home life sucks. At least while she’s running around keeping her witnesses away from murderers, she’s got an amusing partner/sidekick and a bumbling boss to keep her company.

According to USA’s web site, Mary’s boss, Stan, has fatherly feelings towards her. Now, until I read that, I thought he had a huge, unrequited crush on her, so… I don’t know where to go with that. I’m going to have to go back and watch more carefully. But he turns into a stuttering fool around her and labored over what to get her for a birthday present. To me, that screams “crush” more than “dad.”

But Mary’s got some non-creepy suitors too! She’s having no-strings sex with a hot baseball player, Raphael, a guy who wants strings so badly that he proposed to her last week. She shot him down and ran screaming from the room. Then he left town to go play pro ball, which may open the door for Mary’s flirty-flirty interactions with an Albuquerque police officer.

I admit, I didn’t pay much attention to Mary McCormack on The West Wing, because I was having an on-again-off-again relationship with the show by the time she came along. That said, by the last season, I found myself strangely enjoying Will and Kate. And who else still remembers the fandom hysteria surrounding her guest appearances on ER (that amounted to, what, two episodes?) as Carter’s maybe-potential-girlfriend in Africa. If only we had known how much of a threat her character wasn’t in the grand scheme of Carby, we could have saved ourselves a lot of time and energy.

But as unfathomable as it seemed back then, I’ve become a fan. I was rooting for her at the Tonys last weekend (she lost) and her play, Boeing-Boeing (also starring Bradley Whitford) is at the top of my Broadway To-Do list.

In Plain Sight isn’t a perfect show – first off, Mary’s mom and sister are so flighty and giggly and annoying that you want to smack them as badly as Mary does. In the second episode, Mary went out of town with a witness, leaving the two of them alone with their own subplot, something I never want to see again. And what was up with the end of the third episode, where Mary tried to beat a train, only to have her car die on the tracks and her dress (long story) get caught in the car door? She ended up having to push the entire car off the tracks at the last second. Weird and unnecessary.

But overall, I have very few complaints. The show’s funny in a very dry, deadpan way (a marshal named Marshall!) and it’s much worthier of your time than most of what’s on TV this summer. (I mean, Greatest American Dog? Really?)

And just in case you’re not already convinced to give this show a chance, the next two episodes feature guest star turns by Dave Foley and Sherry Stringfield, respectively. So
NewsRadio/ER fans, rejoice! And check it out,
Sundays at 10pm, or grab the full episodes at

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