USA's 'In Plain Sight' leads cable's summer parade
Although the broadcast TV season just ended and the nets are about to fall into the giant hole they dig every year with lame reality shows - Example A: ABC brings back "The Mole" on Monday - there's actually some good TV ahead.
Summertime is cable time in TV World, and while the ABCs, NBCs and the rest mail it in for a few months, a lot of cable networks step up their game.
One new case of that starts Sunday with USA's invigorating "In Plain Sight" (at 10 p.m.), a cop show that mixes wit, sass and a bit of real drama.
It stars Mary McCormack as Mary Shannon, a U.S. marshal assigned to the witness protection program. She has problems with authority, her family, and with being polite, but she's a kick-butt law officer and a joy to watch when she's messing with the bad guys.
Her character sounds like a lot of cop characters over the years. What makes Shannon different is the execution. McCormack can deliver disparaging irony with zing, and carries herself with a charismatic mix of earnestness and cool.
Plus, she's a woman, which doesn't matter much here - except with her family - but it does continue the cable movement that's creating some of TV's best roles and giving them to women. (See: FX's "Damages," Lifetime's "Army Wives," Showtime's "Weeds," and TNT's "The Closer" and "Saving Grace.")
The downside of "In Plain Sight" is that Shannon's family is beyond annoying. Her mom (Leslie Ann Warren) and sister (Nichole Hiltz) are immature, self-involved and fairly stupid. We've seen them before, too, but in this case, there's no saving these characters. They're supposed to add texture to Shannon's life, but mostly they just put a screeching halt to the fun of the show.
The good news is, the bulk of the series is spent on the job with Shannon and her partner, Marshall (Frederick Weller) - yup, Marshall, the marshal - who's as deftly dry and sardonic as McCormack. Together, they are an instant classic cop team.
The premiere Sunday is a 76-minute episode - long story - then it'll settle into an hour for eleven more weeks, and it will give USA two of the brightest, cheekiest shows on TV (along with "Burn Notice," which returns July 10.)
There are a bunch more shows coming soon - mostly from cable - though we still don't have start dates for some of them, but lots of people have asked.
So these are returning. No, can't tell you exactly when: AMC's "Breaking Bad," "Damages," "Showtime's "Dexter" and "Californication," and FX's "The Shield and "Rescue Me."
AMC's "Mad Men" and Bravo's "Project Runway" will return sometime in July.
Here's a look at some of the other shows coming this summer. Unless noted, they're returning series.
"Million Dollar Password" (at 8 p.m. Sunday on CBS): Regis Philbin hosts this remake, and Sunday's celebs are Neil Patrick Harris and Rachael Ray.
"The Next Food Network Star" (at 10 p.m. Sunday on The Food Network).
"Swingtown" (at 10 p.m. June 5 on CBS): CBS goes to the suburbs in the `70s for the sexual revolution. Yes, CBS. Yes, swinging. Yes, it sounds like a punch line.
"Meerkat Manor: The Next Generation (at 9 p.m. June 6 on Animal Planet).
"Ice Road Truckers" (at 9 p.m. June 8 on History).
"Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (at 9 p.m. June 8 on USA).
"When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions" (at 9 p.m. June 8 on Discovery): It's the start of a three-week, six-hour series narrated by Gary Sinise.
"Army Wives" (at 10 p.m. June 8 on Lifetime).
"Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List" (at 9 p.m. June 12 on Bravo).
"The Bill Engvall Show" (at 9 p.m. June 12 on TBS).
"My Boys" (at 9:30 p.m. June 12 on TBS).
"Weeds" (at 10 p.m. June 16 on Showtime).
"Secret Diary of a Call Girl" (at 10:30 p.m. June 16 on Showtime): A new comedy that sounds like it will pair well with "Weeds."
"Greatest American Dog" (at 8 p.m. July 10 on CBS): It's a combination of Stupid Pet Tricks and a cute-dog competition. This is my kind of TV.
"Burn Notice" (at 9 p.m. July 10 on USA).
"Flashpoint" (at 10 p.m. July 11 on CBS): A new cop drama staring Enrico Colantoni that CBS developed with Canadian network CTV.
"The Closer" (at 9 p.m. July 14 on TNT).
"Saving Grace" (at 10 p.m. July 14 on TNT).
"The Cleaner" (at 10 p.m. July 15 on A&E): A drama starring Benjamin Bratt as an "extreme interventionist" who is kicking his own addictions by helping people fix their lives.
"The Gong Show with Dave Attell" (at 10 p.m. July 17 on Comedy Central): It's exactly what it sounds like. They're bringing back "The Gong Show."
"Monk" (at 9 p.m. July 18 on USA).
"Pysch" (at 10 p.m. July 18 on USA).
"Click & Clack's As the Wrench Turns" (at 8 p.m. July 19 on PBS): PBS animates the "Car Talk" brothers and brings them to TV.
"High School Musical: Get in the Picture" (at 8 p.m. July 20 on ABC): First there was the movie, then there was the movie franchise, now there is, of course, the reality game. People ages 16-22 perform and compete for, I dunno. The prize is a secret.
"Jingles" (at 9 p.m. July 27 on CBS): A reality competition from "Survivor" and "Apprentice" producer Mark Burnett that has the players writing and singing, you know, jingles.
"Eureka" (at 9 p.m. July 29 on Sci Fi).