Sunday night marks the return of "In Plain Sight" (starting its fourth season on USA) and the return of Mary Shannon, one of the best lead characters on any hourlong police procedural. And get this: She's gonna be pregnant.
Mary McCormack, the 42-year-old actress, is expecting her third child and the pregnancy has been written into the fourth season of "In Plain Sight." No word yet on the father of Mary Shannon's child, and no obvious candidates, but USA's press material says all will be revealed.
The pregnancy storyline is not introduced in either of the first two episodes, which were made available to the media for advance viewing. But these two episodes do introduce two new supporting characters - one of whom gets off to a promising start and the other of whom less so.
Rachel Boston arrives as a new love interest for Shannon's partner Marshall Mann (Fred Weller). Boston is bright, energetic, clever and establishes a nice chemistry with Weller. Her arrival, of course, is bad news for those fans who are desperate to see Mary and Marshall get together romantically, but please. These characters belong together as partners (in the Albuquerque office of the federal Witness Protection Program, for those unfamiliar with the show), not as lovers. Do we need to make a list of great shows that went downhill when the lead characters were unnecessarily forced together as a plot contrivance? Are viewers really so attuned to the cliches of network television that they assume any male and female characters who are in each others' orbits must eventually collide (so to speak)? (Don't even get me started on Sam and Freddie on "iCarly" - yes, I have kids.)
Then there is the new character played by Tangie Ambrose, introduced as a new special agent. Based on the first two episodes, she (and more importantly, the show's writers) have a long way to go to make this character tolerable. Thus far, she is presented as a one-dimensional caricature, a hypercheerful chatterbox who hands out "morning muffins" and giggles like a schoolgirl. Hopefully she is given more depth as the season presses forward; if not, this character will quickly become an albatross.
As for the first two episodes (minor spoiler alert), the writing and production are as strong as usual. Sunday's premiere focuses on a stolen car operation and introduces a storyline that will be developed into a subplot throughout the season - the impending marriage of Mary's sister. The second episode, an intense thriller, deals with the possibility that a subject in the witness protection program may be suffering from paranoid delusions which make it that much harder for the agents to protect him and his son. In its treatment of both the father and the son, this episode shows how effectively "In Plain Sight" is at depicts the emotional weight that rests on the hearts and souls of ordinary people asked to leave their lives behind and start anew.
This show, built around McCormack's consistently strong and compelling work as Mary Shannon, is one of the best dramas on all of network TV or basic cable. Here's hoping the pregnancy storyline adds to that characterization and doesn't detract from it.
Mike Holtzclaw is a senior reporter at the Daily Press and a particular fan of the hourlong police procedural in all of its varied formats. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.