In Plain Sight was originally scheduled to premiere on Thursday, April 24, 2008, but USA Network held the series back when the WGA strike delayed production of the summer series Burn Notice. It instead made its debut on Sunday, June 1, 2008. It was renewed on July 21, 2008, for a second season with a 16-episode run, which began April 19, 2009.
Then, following creative differences with Executive Producer David Maples, USA Network made the decision to use the season's 15th episode, the first part of a planned two-part season-ender, as the show's season finale. Series creator David Maples and co-producer Paul Stupin subsequently stepped down as executive producers at the end of season 2, although they remained as consulting producers, and were replaced by John McNamara. Todd Williams' and Lesley Ann Warren's roles were changed to guest stars, and a retooling of scriptwriting was designed to place greater emphasis on Mary's cases and less on her personal life, while retaining its character-driven storytelling. According to USA executive Jeff Wachtel, the shift in producers also reflects the network's desire that the show remain upbeat rather than overly dark.
In Plain Sight was renewed for a third season of 16 episodes on August 2, 2009. Although the previously planned 16th episode of season 2 was set to be the opening episode of season 3, the episode was shelved and replaced by a new opening episode, written by new showrunner, John McNamara. The season was later reduced to 13 episodes when McNamara took a leave of absence for medical reasons. In a statement released exclusively to The Futon Critic, the producer of Universal Cable Productions said, "John Romano assumed executive producer responsibilities for the remaining episodes. Given the unexpected change, we decided to end the season at a natural spot—with the surprising cliffhanger of episode 13."
After the conclusion of season 3, USA Network ordered two more seasons of In Plain Sight The fourth season premiered on May 1, 2011, in its original time slot. The fifth and final season began on March 16, 2012, and consisted of eight episodes. The series finale aired on May 4, 2012.
Jeff Beal composed the theme song for the series. W. G. Snuffy Walden composed the music for the first season, followed by Tree Adams for the second season. Evan Frankfort, Liz Phair, and Marc Dauer composed the music for the remainder of the series.
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Mary Shannon (Mary McCormack): Mary is a capable officer, a nonconformist and uninterested in typical feminine wiles. To her witnesses, she is known as Mary Shepard. Mary has trust and abandonment issues that lead her to have difficulties with relationships due to a difficult childhood resulting from her father's gambling and mother's alcoholism. Mary became engaged to her boyfriend Raphael in the season two episode "Jailbait"; however, she often seems unhappy with the relationship and the engagement, and her feelings of uncertainty and unpreparedness about marriage cause her fiancé, Raphael, to call off the engagement in the season-three episode "Coma Chameleon". In the season-two finale, "Don't Cry for Me, Albuquerque", Mary is shot defending a witness living in a bad neighborhood and is in a coma. In season three, she has recovered and is back at work. At the end of season three. she begins a relationship with FBI Agent Michael Faber, whom she soon convinces to return to his ex-wife and children. After her relationship with Faber ends, she has a short fling with her ex-husband, and becomes pregnant.
Marshall Mann (Fred Weller): A fifth-generation Deputy U.S. Marshal, to his witnesses, he is known as Marshall Miller. Marshall is Mary's partner, as well as her best friend, and appeared to desire more than her friendship as the series progressed. In the season-three finale, Marshall begins to tell Mary that she needs someone who challenges her, calls her on her BS, gets in her face and makes her think, and is seemingly about to profess his love when they are interrupted by Stan, leading Marshall to walk away discouraged and heartbroken. He seems to know a little about everything, what Mary calls "useless information", and is rarely ever speechless. The only time this has ever happened was in the season-three episode "Whistle Stop", when he discovered Raphael and Mary had broken up, leading her to declare him "verbally impotent". Friction between Marshall and Mary occurs at times, often due to Marshall's cerebral approach and Mary's gut instinct, though both are extremely protective of witnesses and each other. Though Mary and Marshall have occasionally disagreed about the proper course of action regarding policies, Marshall has typically backed down after taking time to get a perspective and will adopt Mary's position if her cause is right—even when her attitude is not. In later seasons, Marshall began a relationship with a female detective with the Albuquerque police force.
Stan McQueen (Paul Ben-Victor): As chief inspector for WITSEC's Southwest region, Stan is Marshall and Mary's boss. He is a flexible boss and stand-up guy, quickly backing up both Marshall and Mary when they hit trouble. Stan likes to stick to official WITSEC doctrine as often as possible and is reluctant to bend the rules without authorization. Stan has made an effort to recreate the professional distance in his office, presumably as a way to shield his team from FBI fallout. He and Eleanor had an intimate encounter.
Jinx Shannon (Lesley Ann Warren): Mary's alcoholic mother, was abandoned by her bank-robbing husband to raise her two daughters alone. Although she adores her daughters, she has never been a traditional, supportive, job-holding maternal figure. She recognizes that Mary is the stable member of their family, and this has inspired her to live up to her daughter's example. Even so, she harbors a great deal of resentment against her strong-willed daughter, though this only comes to the surface when she is under great emotional duress. Firmly on the path to recovery, Jinx is slowly growing into her own woman, apart from the conniving lifestyle she once enjoyed while being an alcoholic. Now on the path to sobriety, she still follows Mary's lead, but is slowly becoming more reliable now, having a job and a house of her own.
Brandi Shannon (Nichole Hiltz): Mary's younger sister is very much her mother's daughter and the baby of the family. She lives in the moment and was involved with a shadowy man named Chuck. Despite this, she looks up to Mary and, at times, sees her as an example. She also tends to be the more mature figure in her relationship with her mother. Brandi is loyal to a fault, but is slowly developing a conscience independent of others' approval. Moved by seeing a young infant in the hands of a meth addict and a drug-dealing boyfriend, Brandi backed out of a drug deal initiated by Chuck so child services would protect the baby. Later, once Mary has been rescued from her abduction (which was fallout from this decision), Brandi later admits privately that if she had known how the events would play out, she would have killed Chuck herself rather than let her sister come into harm's way from her actions. She is dating a man she met in Alcoholics Anonymous, who later turned out to be very rich (Mary stated he "owns half of Albuquerque"). Brandi takes this information differently, believing she is just "one of his girls" and tries to act selfishly to have him break up with her. After he stays with her (even offering hang-over remedies), he states he hopes they can continue to date, to which she agrees. Mary's nickname for Brandi is "Squish". At the end of the third season, Brandi moves in with Peter and in the beginning of the fourth season Brandi informs Mary that she is engaged.
Raphael Ramirez (Cristián de la Fuente): Mary's former fiancé, commonly known as Raph, played minor league baseball for the Albuquerque Isotopes until injuries forced his retirement. His relationship with Mary was complicated for a time when he becomes close to her sister Brandi. After Mary was kidnapped by drug dealers, Raph disposed of a suitcase full of drugs Brandi brought to Albuquerque, which Mary eventually discovers. When they become engaged, Mary tells Raph what she does, which proves difficult for Raph to understand. Raph is aware of Mary's doubts about marriage, which finally leads to his decision to call off their engagement.
Peter Alpert (Joshua Malina): Brandi's new boyfriend and a wealthy businessman, he meets Brandi at an AA meeting, where she pretends to be Jinx for her mother to pass a required AA meeting set by the courts. Despite initially disapproving of Brandi's actions, Peter begins dating Brandi after she makes a determined effort to apologize to him.
Scott Griffin (Aaron Ashmore): Mary's half-brother, he, along with his sister, is Mary's father's child from a later marriage Mary knew nothing about. Brandi goes in search of him and brings him to Albuquerque.
Detective Robert Dershowitz (Todd Williams): A homicide detective, known as Bobby D, he is occasionally assigned to cases involving Mary's witnesses. He has deduced that Mary is a U.S. Marshal working for WITSEC and does not hide his disgust for the branch of law enforcement that puts known criminals back on the street. This attitude has softened as Dershowitz becomes involved in cases associated with the Marshal Service's witnesses. While his rapport with Mary had been antagonistic at times, he appreciates the friction. After her disappearance, he and Marshall bonded during the subsequent investigation, resulting in a respect for the two marshals, though he occasionally disagrees with the less savory part of their jobs. Currently, he is in a task force in Chicago.
Eleanor Prince (Holly Maples): The recently widowed WITSEC office manager, both her deceased husband and she worked for the FBI. Eleanor's calm efficiency clashes with Mary's abrasive work style, but earns the affection of Stan and the admiration of Marshall. In times of emergency, Eleanor uses her connections in the FBI to assist with Mary and Marshall's cases, particularly ones that have dealt with Agent O'Conner's relentless pursuit of Mary and her family. Eleanor eventually leaves WITSEC to take a position as an analyst with the FBI.
Special Agent Robert O'Connor (Will McCormack): A New Jersey–based FBI agent now working in Albuquerque, he is in charge of investigating the murders related to the drug dealing in which Brandi was involved and has relentlessly focused his investigation on Brandi. He has also become interested in the whereabouts of Mary's and Brandi's father. Will McCormack is Mary McCormack's younger brother in real life.
Special Agent Michael Faber (Steven Weber): An FBI agent with whom Mary has a short relationship after they work on a case together, he tells Mary about his relationship with his father, something Faber tries hard not to be towards his own son.
The pilot episode of In Plain Sight attracted 5.25 million viewers, making it USA Network's highest-rated series premiere since Psych in 2006. It also outperformed the previous summer's debut of Burn Notice by 32% and the network premiere of Law & Order: Criminal Intent by 40%.