by Steven Leventhal
I have to credit to TiVoGirl for this one. She gave me some recommendations for shows to watch this summer. There are so many networks now with original (non-reality) programming, that they don't all catch my attention. Lifetime, FX, ABC Family, HBO, Showtime, TNT, and even USA all have character driven shows these days. So while the big boy networks are spinning reruns, and shoving their own reality tripe out there, the off-Broadway (so to speak) channels offer an alternative option.
So I set the DVR to record "Burn Notice" and kind of forgot about it until my wife asked me to clear out some space for the fall programming. That's when I found out how good a program it was, as I launched into watch mode to see how many episodes I could plow through. I made through several back issues from the debut day "marathon," along with the summer debut, and the first four episodes. I have to cram my watch time between my wife and daughter's viewing of their taped episodes of "Top Runway," "Project Chef," or whatever junk they recorded.
I can officially say I have seen something as good as any of the three-letter named networks offer. "Burn Notice" is well written, nicely paced, with a terrific cast of characters.
The title refers to the notice that spies get when they are deemed too
unstable, no longer useful, or compromised by their agencies. In this
program, agent Michael Westen, played by Jeffrey Donovan has been
discredited and left to fend for himself, with no
lifeline from the espionage agency.
After getting his burn
notice, Westen finds himself in Miami. Although I could think of worse places to be stranded, he is left with "no cash, no credit, and no job history," and under
government surveillance. He is forced to rely on an old "trigger happy"
girlfriend, Fiona, played by Gabrielle Anwar, who looks great in a bikini and holding a sub machine gun or sniper rifle. Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) a washed out ex-Navy SEAL, who was originally hired to inform on Michael to the government. Michael also has to deal occasionally with his mother (played by a chain-smoking Sharon Gless) who is not so naive that she doesn't realize some of what her son is involved in.
In the current fourth season that aired this summer, the group are joined by Jesse Porter (Coby Bell) a former field operative, who Westen has "burned" unwittingly. It makes me laugh, because every time they refer to Jesse, I can't help but think that the name seems like a combination of Jesse Palmer and Jerry Porter.
Some of the story is narrated in first person by Weston, who is trying to find out who burned him. Guilt-ridden, Michael is also trying to help out Jesse without revealing that he was the cause of Porter's problems. But Jesse's field skills have come in handy on several occasions. In many of the episodes, Michael finds himself coming to the aid of other individuals who seek him out as a security expert, or to get rid of criminals that are threatening ordinary citizens, who have gotten entangled with the wrong crowd.
Often, Westen has to improvise, using his spy skills to get out of sticky situations, such as when he was unwittingly taken hostage in a botched bank robbery. He's tangled with mobsters, bikers, and drug dealers, as well the unnamed government agency that hung him out to dry.
This show has so many great elements: smooth talking Michael, the lovely Fiona, who loves to blow stuff up, the wisecracking Sam, who seems to be able to obtain any fake documents, commandeer vehicles at will, and and hack into supposedly safe computer files. Toss in the Miami backdrop with tons of chicks in skimpy outfits, and you've a clear winner.
There's a lot more stuff on the website, including archived shows. It returns in November for more new episodes. I can't wait.