Friday, April 17, 2009

Must Watch Friday : : Burn Notice

Anne McAllister is getting a lot of writing done because there is a dead spot on Thursday nights at the moment. The hour between 9-10 pm (Central and Mountain) or 10-11 pm (Eastern or Pacific) on USA network is sadly empty.

Or if it's not, I have no idea what's on because I'm not watching. I'm waiting for Burn Notice to come back in June. June 4th to be exact. It's on my calendar.

Haven't seen Burn Notice? Check it out.

I was a latecomer, myself. I missed the whole first season. In fact I missed the first half of the second. It wasn't until I first saw the boxed set of season 1 of Burn Notice in Target browsing for Christmas gifts that I thought, hmmm, that looks interesting.

It caught my eye because the cover is cream and that turqouisy-aqua color generally associated with sunshine and the tropics and Miami Beach. We in the snowy frigid midwest find that sort of thing instantly appealing in mid-December.

I bought a copy. Two actually. One for me. One for Kate Walker.

Kate isn't as color deprived in the winter as I am, but she likes a good hero, and from the sound of things Michael Westen, he of the 'burn notice' -- that's how spies get fired -- had hero potential.

I'm not entirely sure what Kate's opinion of him as a hero is. We haven't discussed it. But he is definitely on my radar.

I like honorable, tough, competent guys with a can-do spirit, a dry sense of humor and a smart mouth. That's Michael Westen in spades.

For those who haven't met Michael, (played by Jeffrey Donovan with just the right amount of sarcasm, deadpan commentary and kick-ass action), he is an out-of-work spy, having been 'burned' -- that is basically disenfranchised by the government agency he works for, blacklisted, and dumped without resources in Miami Beach, from whence he came ten years before.

He has no money, no resources, no evidence that he really 'exists' -- and people keep trying to kill him.

He isn't happy about this.

He's done his best for his country and his agency and he wants to know who burned him and why. That's the overall arc of the stories as they've developed.

On an episode by episode basis, Michael ends up using his expertise -- such as it is -- to help the 'little guys' who are being pushed around by people in power (be they drug lords, crime bosses, art gallery owners, neighborhood enforcers, or just general all around jerks).

His efforts are aided by a terrific cast of helpful characters, each quirkier than the last:
  • his former -- and present -- girl friend, Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar), an explosives expert whose answer to most problems is a) shoot them or b) blow them up,
  • his old buddy, Sam, former FBI agent, slightly more flippant than Michael, always on the lookout for a free drink and a willing woman, played by the wonderful Bruce Campbell,
  • and, to his everlasting despair, his mother, the wonderfully dysfunctional chain-smoking Madeline, played by Sharon Gless.

    There are other characters in Michael's world who appear on a sporadic basis: Nate, his scapegrace brother, Barry, the money launderer, Seymour, the arms dealer, Jason Bly, the current government agent who is sometimes foe and sometimes friend, and Victor, who was burned even before Michael was.

    Together with other characters who have occasional or on-going roles, they create an entire mind-bogglingly believable alternative world for Michael to inhabit on a weekly basis. I'm always wide-eyed to discover what they're going to do next.

    There will be those who say Michael isn't an alpha hero, but I disagree. He might not be wealthy. But wealth is a shorthand way of saying a guy has made a success of his life. There are other ways -- like Michael's.

    When it comes to street cred, he's your man. Ask him for help, and you've got it. Pile up the odds against him, and he'll find a way to whittle them down (or blow them up, if Fiona helps). He's the leader of the pack -- however strange that pack might be. He's the guy you definitely want on your team.

    Matt Nix, the show's creator, said he wanted to go back to basics when he wrote Burn Notice. He wanted a show like the ones he liked when he was a kid -- where you knew who the good guys were and they came through, though perhaps a little quirkily, in the end.

    He's got it in Burn Notice. Give me a show with an honorable hero who has an offbeat sense of humor and a knack for doing what needs to be done, and I'll tune in every week. I'm counting the days until June!

    Anne is currently reliving her few days in Cannes as she tries to get a book written before Burn Notice comes back on in June.

    If you look quick you might still find copies of her most recent release, Savas' Defiant Mistress, on bookshelves near you.
    It has a hero who can get things done, has enough of a sense of humor to deal with a sister planning the wedding that ate Seattle (and not resort to murder), and believes that, if Michael Westen can live in a loft over a bar, a Presents hero can live in a houseboat if he wants to.


  1. I missed the first couple episodes of season 1 too, but when I found the show I got hooked. Great dialogue, great action, yummy hero.

  2. Totally agree (obviously!), Marcie. I sort of felt lucky that I was able to see the whole first season on DVD, so I didn't have to wait week after week for it to come on television.

  3. Ooh this sounds good. I'm a fan of Bruce Campbell and like to play spot Bruce in any Sam Raimi films.

    I've done a search and found it on TV over here, on FX if people want to know. Episode 5 of season 1 is tomorrow so I shall have to check it out.

  4. Gems, I didn't realize it had finally made it onto UK television. Good. I think the DVDs became available for season 1 last month in PAL format, too. So if you like it, you can probably grab a boxed set!

    Bruce is wonderful in it. He makes it ever better.