Burn Notice

Regardless of this airing on a cable network, Burn Notice is probably one of the most enjoyable shows presently benefitting from ratings today. If you don’t like the camaraderie between this band of do-gooders comprised of a burned spy, a washed up Navy Seal and an ex-IRA agent (yes, all these organizations are represented in one show), then you probably won’t like this series. Although, I cannot imagine why!  

Spies don’t get fired, they get burned.

Michael Westen (Jeffery Donovan) has a reputation as a spy. Right now, he’s in Africa about to complete a job that usually would go down without a hitch, only when he makes contact, the operator informs him he has been blacklisted: basically from now on, he no longer exists. Time is running short before his African gun-running captors realize he is no longer worth anything to them, so limping and bruised, Michael escapes their custody, and barely makes the next flight out of the country, only to be dropped on the sandy beaches of Miami. There he is expected to stay off the grid by the CIA, and who knows what other agencies. With all his personal records either erased or confiscated, Michael’s very identity is questioned.

So… “trust” must be placed in anyone still willing to talk to you. For Michael that consists of his “trigger-happy” ex, Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) and buddy, Sam (Bruce Campball) who’s informing on him to the FBI. And if you’re really desperate: there's family. Mom Madeline (Sharon Gless) is the last person Michael wants to deal with just now, especially considering she thinks she has a disease that the doctors just haven’t diagnosed, she wants him to make peace with his brother (Seth Peterson) and to top it off, Michael is determined to find out just who issued a burn notice… In the meantime, a burglary suspect needs help clearing his name and Michael finds he has a knack for using his skills to do something good: help people.

I’ll admit seeing this was a bit of a stretch considering I knew next-to-nothing about the framework of the series. All it took was one season and I wound up  loving the show for its cleverness and witty characters. Its approach is very unique compared to other shows of its variety. For the most part this is thanks to the characters, who have rapidly become some of the most likable on television today. From the opening titles, the characters had me “hooked.” (Michael being the primary, considering you rarely see any of the other billed stars in the pilot.) There has never quite been another character like him; his “noble” mission to help those in need of some, shall we say, intimidating intimidation, makes him one-of-a-kind (especially by his escapades and comical quirks, like when he “steals” cars or makes his own “gadgets” with things from the hardware store).

All around, he’s just a genuinely “good” guy whose one weakness – like most of us - is family and friends. As for Fiona… well, she just does her thing. She attempts to get Michael to open up and discuss their past, but somehow Gabrielle makes her one of the strongest female leads.  Going against what her appearance would suggest and her snappy responses, beneath that tough shell, there’s a vulnerability that defines her character. And that is what makes these individuals so engaging; the actors found a niche that brought to life fantastic character personas that bring audiences back each time.

Being set in Miami sets the tone for some cool filming of quick succession shots to say nothing of its natural beauty. Each episode has voice-over commentary, which lays out the cases and players. Likewise, outdoor scenes make for some gorgeous cinematography -- palm trees, sweeping architectural structures, sidewalk restaurants, and the beach. For all my heaping admiration, the show is flawed. When it does stumble, it more than compensates through the constructive concepts. (Favorite episodes are: “Fight or Flight,” “Wanted Man,” “Hard Bargain,” “Loose Ends,” and the pilot.) If you like White Collar or Covert Affairs (the same network), this show is worth a look. 

Burn Notice is clever and witty with characters that in spite of their flaws, you just cannot help but love, but at the same time features a serious intrigue in relation to Michael’s quest for answers. Only be prepared, the end leaves you hanging.

CONTENT: “Old Friends” deals with an 18-year-old unknowingly entering a prostitution ring. Restraining from anything overly intimate, Fiona and Michael spend the night together near the end of “Broken Rules” [implied; they wake up together, sheets carefully placed]. Profanity and crude terms are scattered; “Jesus” is abused as well as other deity abuses.  Violence ranges from a lead getting shot in the shoulder to hand-to-hand combat. Characters are hit with the butt of guns, punched, kicked, and just threatened in general. Explosions are a “normal” part of the show; suicide is once implied. Drinking is prevalent in certain cases. It’s said Michael’s father was a drunk and perhaps even abusive at times. Fiona wears numerous inappropriate clothing; a lot of scenes also take place in clubs. The show has a standard TV14 rating.