USA takes another swipe at police/adventure with quirky characters tomorrow night. And this time, unlike

Monk

or

Burn Notice

or

Psych

, it follows the tried-and-true summer cable formula of putting a woman in the lead.

Mary McCormack, a handsome and perennial second fiddle (she was Navy Cmdr. Kate Harper in

The West Wing

and Howard Stern's wife in

Private Parts

), gets top billing as a sharp-tongued U.S. marshal who shepherds criminals and innocents alike into the witness protection program, which, it turns out, is actually called the Witness Security Program.

You can learn a lot watching TV.

The show, premiering at 10 p.m., is called

In Plain Sight

, which refers to the not-so-original series concept, as well as the idea that the protected people are supposed to take on new lives and go about their business just like you and me.

McCormack, 39, plays another pushing-40 Mary, Mary Shannon, who has the same sort of Bickersons, though ultimately affectionate, relationship with her male partner that was popularized by Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy 65 years ago and has been reprised constantly ever since. Because cutesy comedy mixes with gunplay in this show, this U.S. marshal is named Marshall Mann, ha-ha.

The long-necked Frederick Weller, who's knocked around in TV and movies for nearly 20 years, gets a big break, and he's fine.

But Mary also has a boyfriend (Cristian de la Fuente, so hot on

Dancing With the Stars

this season that he ruptured a tendon in his arm), so we'll have to see how that works out.

And because the writers weren't satisfied with an enjoyable, if not-too-challenging, police show, they gave Mary a mother, Trixie (Lesley Ann Warren), and a sister (Nichole Hiltz), Brandi, who are supposed to rile the poor marshal with their dipso behavior, but who will wind up aggravating viewers way more.

Mary's boss is Stan McQueen, which, I guess, is funny because he's played by schlumpy, shrimpy Paul Ben-Victor, a great character actor last seen as henchman to The Greek, the all-powerful crime boss in

The Wire

.

Tomorrow's pilot is one of those drawn-out introductory series starters presented "with limited commercial interruption" - about 15 minutes in a 90-minute show - though you might wish for a couple more ads and a little less expository narration.

But things pick up in episode 2, when Mary has to keep a little boy, adopted by another family in the Witness Security Program, away from his real father, who is a dirty drug dealer.

It's summer. It's a fresh series. It's not

The Mole

,

Celebrity Circus

, or

Elite Xtreme Combat

.

"Characters welcome," goes the USA slogan.

In Plain Sight

may not offer the newest characters on the block, but they're diverting, and at least they can spell.

Jonathan Storm:

Television

In Plain Sight

Tomorrow night at 10 on USA

To comment on this article, go to: http://go.philly.com/askstorm. Contact television critic Jonathan Storm at 215-854-5618 or jstorm@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/jonathanstorm.