“Being a spy means having to do things you don’t want to do…like sitting through another one of BQB’s television reviews…”
Burnt spy + hot Irish babe/demolitions expert + hard drinking, wise cracking buddy + spy’s mom = a funny action series you should have paid more attention to when it was on the air.
But that’s ok. You can still catch it on Netflix.
BQB here with a review of Burn Notice.
The show begins with government super spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) being “burned.”
As he explains during the show’s title sequence, his agency, without explaining why, disavows him, writes him off, leaves him without any money or references and seeing as how Mike doesn’t have any job experience he can publicly admit, little in the way of skills he can use to make a legit living.
Thus, Mike moves back home to Florida to be closer to his elderly mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless of Cagney and Lacey fame.)
Mike forms a crew with:
- His girlfriend, Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar), a demolitions expert who, often to hilarious effect, wants to blow up everything first and ask questions later.
- Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell), a fast talking degenerate/con artist/former Navy seal.
I love this show because to me, it felt like a modern day A-Team. Just as the A-Team used their soldier skills to help people in need, Mike, Fiona and Sam form their own team and use their skills to help various residents of Florida save themselves from all manner of criminals and reprobates.
Now, keep in mind the show aired on USA, and not to cast aspersions, but USA is most likely your grandma’s favorite channel.
Ergo, USA shows tend to be simple (though I hear that might be changing with Mr. Robot as of late.)
Thus, the Burn Notice formula:
- Beginning and end of the episode is about Mike’s ongoing quest to figure out who burned him and why he was burned.
- In the middle, Mike, Sam or Fiona meet someone, often a nice civilian who has run afoul of some criminal.
- Mike and the gang use their skills to help the person in need. Mike uses his spy skills. Fiona blows shit up. Sam uses his well worn alias “Chuck Finley” to sweet talk someone into giving up some information.
- In fact, the trio often dust off their acting skills, using terrible accents and poorly crafted back stories to worm their way into the confidence of various criminal organizations before making their move. If you suspend disbelief, its fun.
On top of all that, the Florida scenery is beautiful.
Mike even recruits his mom to help from time to time and there are a number of series regulars who come in and out. Towards the end of the series, Coby Bell joins the group as Jesse Porter, a spy who, ironically, Michael burns.
I loved this show. I looked forward to it when it was on every week as an escape. And it was one of few shows I was able to start when it was already on the air for a couple of years and understand what was going on before I eventually went back and watched the episodes I missed.
Somehow, the writers were able to balance the need for USA viewers to be able to understand what is happening if they just happen to start watching an episode at random with the audience’s desire to have interesting, compelling story lines.
I ended up caring about all of these characters and moreover, from start to finish, the writers make it clear that they care about you, the viewer.
Michael narrates each episode and explains his gadgets, strategies, plans, etc., usually with “Being a spy means…”
As Michael explains what he is up to, sometimes it is fun to watch to see if he can actually pull it off.
And everyone needs a girlfriend like Fiona and a buddy like Sam.
IMO, Donovan and Anwar are both underutilized by Hollywood and deserve more movie roles.
Bruce Campbell is a laugh riot and this role breathed much deserved life into his career.
Check it out, 3.5 readers.
Don’t forget to grab a yogurt. Mike loves his yogurt.