{mosimage}In Plain Sight (Sunday, 10 p.m., USA) introduces us to a new kind of TV heroine. Mary Shannon (Mary McCormack) is a tough U.S. marshal who helps relocate people in the witness-protection program. Mary has to handle both the witnesses (often nasty criminals) and the folks who want them dead, and that puts her in a perpetual bad mood. All day long she throws out insults and punches, using sarcasm to keep her sanity.

McCormack creates a memorable character, but the script could use fine-tuning. Mary’s incessant “pissiness” č to use one of her favorite words č can become grating. And her wisecracks are sometimes just old-fashioned bigotry masquerading as a gutsy challenge to political correctness. The premiere episode’s villain is a Native American, giving Mary a chance to tell him that “the great white father back in Washington will go all Little Big Horn on your a**.”

The episode also elicits groans when it tries to show a heart beating under Mary’s hard shell. It goes all earnest on us, suggesting that she’s just an old softie looking for L.U.V.

“We all live in hiding,” she says in a suddenly gentle voiceover. “In one way or another, each of us conceals pieces of ourselves from the rest of the world.”

Pissiness, all is forgiven.


Scripps National Spelling Bee

Friday, 8 p.m. (ABC)

Admittedly, the kids who make the finals are amazing. But one can’t help but ask a question: Why make these smart students waste their time memorizing nutty words that no one ever uses? Wouldn’t it be better to apply their brainpower to, say, solving the oil or healthcare crises?

To me, the whole thing is simply mastrosniffapoolicious.


MTV Movie Awards

Sunday, 8 p.m. (MTV)

Every year, the MTV Movie Awards shames the Oscars by honoring films that audiences actually liked. The 2008 Oscars were dominated by grim, pseudo-profound movies painstakingly engineered to win Academy Awards. By contrast, MTV’s show picks cheeky, earthy, shamelessly fun flicks, bristling with energy and eccentricity. The nominees include Superbad, Knocked Up, Hairspray and Transformers, all refreshingly free of pretension. Can you imagine how much better Atonement might have been if it included a car that transformed into a giant robot?


Million Dollar Password

Sunday, 8 p.m. (CBS)

CBS revives the old game show, in which contestants help their partners guess a word revealed only to the audience. CBS promises a sleek, modern production, with higher stakes, new twists and a grand prize tied to 2008 inflationary levels. But to most of us, Password wouldn’t be Password without one very old-fashioned element: a deep-voiced announcer who addresses the audience in an absurd stage whisper. “The password IS╔.”

 

Denise Richards: It’s Complicated

Sunday, 10 p.m. (E!)

Denise Richards never got any respect as an actress, probably because she didn’t deserve any. Now that she’s too old for bosomy sexpot roles, it’s time for the next phase of her career: a tawdry reality series. One wonders if Richards will seem wooden even in the role of herself.

Here, she allows the cameras to record her life as a single mother in Hollywood. You know the drill: picking up the kids from school, shopping for groceries, stealing rocker Richie Sambora from best friend Heather Locklear.

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