Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Night Play List: "Burn Notice"

So far, this summer, when I am not occupied with food or writing fiction, I have been catching up to the current season of "Burn Notice", an excellent show on the USA network.

It is hard to understand why a smart series like "Burn Notice" has failed to gain the attention that dumber shows like "The Mentalist" are thriving on. The only explanation that I can think of is that it is a cable-based program without the budget for flashy production or promotion.

The title refers to the firing of Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan), an American spy. Left in limbo in Miami without funds or resources, Michael survives on odd jobs helping ordinary people in over their heads, while attempting to return to Government duty (Note that I am in the middle of Season 2 so Michael may already have discovered the reasons behind his firing in the current fourth season).

Michael's practical approach to mayhem is one of the appeals of the show. Like MacGyver, Michael needs only a screw driver and a paper clip to take on armed thugs. Throughout the show, his calm voice-over schools viewers in the efficient art of covert ops. In spite of his wits and physical prowess, Michael is handicapped by personal baggage that makes him more of a weirdo than a slick operative. When confronted by overt emotions, Michael becomes hilariously robotic.

Michael's oddness is only amplified by the company he keeps. Helping Michael out are Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell!), a former Navy Seal, now a gigolo surviving on the kindness of women, and Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar), an ex-girlfriend and former member of the Irish Republican Army who functions like she is still in a war zone.

A note to nerds: if the presence of Bruce Campbell on the cast does not win you over, know that the show has featured guest appearances by two cylons: Lucy Lawless and Tricia Helfer.

In Canada, "Burn Notice" is playing on the Super Channel (whatever that is) or on a torrent near you.