Burn Notice debuted on the USA network last summer to a fair bit of buzz, none of which I was aware of, because I don’t have cable and don’t follow the new releases. Recently some friends were talking about which cable shows were worth catching up with, and someone mentioned this one. It has Bruce Campbell in it, so I decided to give it a try. I ended up watching the entire first season in 2 days.
It’s charming and light – a fantastic pastiche of spy novels, American detective stories (especially the Florida-based stories of Carl Hiaasen), tv crime procedurals, and, well, MacGyver. Plenty of shots are fired, and plenty of things blow up, but the action usually doesn’t happen until after a trip to the hardware store. (It’s not just common household objects that are drafted; fondant icing is used in a way that will amuse anyone with mixed feelings about that substance.) Regular narration by main character Michael Westen – a US-agency operative turned private contractor who’s been abandoned by his (government) clients – provides a surprisingly pleasant level of exposition. The hardware-store-first ethos is matched in episode resolutions that have more to do with tricking tricksters, setting bad guys upon each other, and other forms of sweet justice rather than plain vanilla taking down.
The Westen character is anchored by an ex-girlfriend, his mother, and a friend who is a washed-up former covert operative. Gabrielle Anwar is a little too kooky for me as the ex-girlfriend, and her accent is basically a case study in how not to do whatever accent she’s trying to do. His mother is played by Sharon Gless, of Cagney & Lacey fame, and there is at least one major nod to that series in season 1. The washed-up ex-operative is played wonderfully by Bruce Campbell.
I still don’t have cable, so I haven’t seen any of season 2’s episodes, but I will. Its nice combination of a big story arc with compact, episodic stories, and its overall sense of great fun almost make me want to read all about it at Television Without Pity before I get my hands on the new stuff.