"In Plain Sight," Colorful Casting Would Have Made It A Better Show

BlogHer Original Post

The lead character on "In Plain Sight" should have been a black woman.   How's that for an opening line?

But I'm serious.  She should have been a black woman. 

Why do I say this?  Because after watching the pilot episode of "In Plain Sight" and several episodes since, I keep thinking:  what a bland show. 

It's kind of like watching a show that's set in New York but was shot on the gritty streets of Toronto:  there's nothing special about it and it's obvious to anyone who's been there, it's not New York.

Right now the lead character's name is Mary Shannon and she's played by Mary McCormack.  How much more interesting would it have been though to cast a black woman or better yet, since it's set in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a Native American woman in the lead role?  They could have changed the character's name to Sarah Two Feather.  If she were black, she could have been Renita Johnson.  Hispanic?  Consuela Ramirez.

Or since this is the United States of Many Races and Origins, Hispanic, black or Native American, Mary Shannon could still have been the character's name.

"In Plain Sight" is about a US Marshall who babysits all kinds of people who go into the federal witness protection program.  Mary Shannon has a whacked out mother (Lesley Ann Warren), a druggie sister (Nichole Hiltz), and a Latin hottie boyfriend played by Cristian de la Fuente.  The show's another in the recent trend of cable shows starring strong women with crappy personal lives who have tough jobs they do in a tough way. 

"The Closer" starring Kyra Sedgwick started this latest trend.  Then came "Saving Grace" and now "In Plain Sight."  But did we really need another show about a white woman and her white woman problems?

Now before you take that the wrong way, let me say here, I love seeing shows with interesting, strong women characters, white or not.

"Damages" comes to mind, because not only were the lead women characters great, the plotting was riveting and all the supporting characters were great as well.  Hands down it's a far superior show to "In Plain Sight."  Though as much as I love "Damages" and Glenn Close, I would loved to have seen what someone like Angela Bassett could have done with the role of Patty Hewes.

Most of the time when you see black people on TV, they're not the stars of shows, but supporting players.  They're the friends or acquaintances of the white main characters.  For me it's disappointing because I'm not the supporting player in anyone else's life and I don't want to be represented as if I am. 

Other than on shows like "Lost," "Grey's Anatomy," "Ugly Betty," and the lame duck that is "ER," women of color characters are sparse on TV.  The only black actresses that are even close to being leads are S. Epatha Merkerson on "Law and Order" and CCH Pounder on "The Shield."

They're both fabulous actresses.  Why aren't they starring in their own shows?  Hollywood, ya' listening?

That's why when a middle of the road show like "In Plain Sight" comes along with a capable, yet just okay actress, I always wonder why USA Cable or some producer didn't say, hey, let's break outside the box and try some creative casting?

Take the example of this fall's "The Cleveland Show" on Fox.  "The Cleveland Show" is the only new show on the fall schedule starring a black character...and people, it's animated.  It's a spinoff of "The Family Guy" and the black main character?  Why he's voiced by a white actor. The irony was not lost over at Fox---for once---so now a supporting white character is going to be voiced by a black actor.  See, creative casting.

Except, even in animation, we're the supporting players.

Back to "In Plain Sight," nothing against Mary McCormack but she's a ho hum actress who's not bringing in droves of viewers.  There are black actresses out there who could bring in just as few viewers while still making the show much more entertaining.

The reason you set a show in Albuquerque instead of Los Angeles is the same reason you should be casting people of color in lead roles.  It's more interesting.

We're about elect a black president for gosh sakes, get the hell with the program!

Related Links:

Shawna Buchanan's Weblog writes her thoughts on "In Plain Sight."

The TV Girl has thoughts about the "In Plain Sight" pilot.

Alisa at Flow TV has an interesting post about shows, including "In Plain Sight" going on location.


Megan Smith is a BlogHer Contributing Editor covering TV/YouTube and she's winging her way to BlogHer '08 tomorrow. Her other blogs are Megan's Minute and Video Runway.


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