Heat up your summer with USA’s ‘Burn Notice’

June 30, 2007

I just finished watching the pilot of USA’s newest edition to its summer lineup and I have to say Burn Notice has definitely earned a spot in my summer TV line up.  This quirky drama stars Jeffrey Donovan (Crossing Jordan, Hitch) as Michael Westen, a spy who gets abruptly fired during a mission and must now find out who issued the burn notice on him in order to get his life back.

WestenI first saw Donovan in another USA series — Touching Evil — where he played a complex detective for the Organized and Serial Crime Unit.  I liked him in this show, but it was a little heavy and dark.  In nice to see him in a lighter role, one where his subtle humor can flourish.

I think my favorite part of the series is Westen’s voice-overs because they are like Westen’s guide to being a spy.  I particularly like the one about discovering and losing a tail when your mom’s in the car with you.

He also seems to be a very considerate spy.  If he steals a car, he keeps it clean and tries to return it before the end of the business day or tells you where he’s going to leave it.  If he shoots you in the leg, he leaves you bandages. 

But it’s Westen’s relationships that make the show.

First there is the ex-girlfriend, Fiona, played by Gabrielle Anwar (Tudors, The Three Musketeers).  Every wonder what kind of girl a spy dates?  Try a former member of the IRA who thinks hand-to-hand combat is good foreplay.

Then there’s Westen’s family.  In the pilot we meet his mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless).  A lonely hypochondriac, Madeline is happy to have Michael — the one she says kept the family together — home for the holiday.  Although he left home at 17 and hasn’t returned, he sends money, mostly to finance his mother’s doctor visits.  We learn that Michael missed the funeral of his late father and that his brother threw a phone book at his head the last time he saw him.

SamAnd finally, there are Westen’s friends — all former spies themselves.  Most of his contacts won’t have anything to do with him since his burn notice.  His own handler won’t take his calls until he sends him a fake bomb.  And the only two friends he has left — Lucy (China Chow) and Sam (Bruce Campbell) — only help him to spy on him for the feds.  Not because they want to, mind you, but because the feds are holding something over them, like Sam’s pension.  But that’s okay, Westen expected as much.

But what is most touching is how Westen grows to care for his clients — the desperate and despondent he helps to raise cash — even though he doesn’t want to.

Overall, this episode was a good set up for an interesting, fun series.  I’m looking forward to watching more episodes this summer.  If you haven’t had a chance to see the show, I recommend catching it in repeats (USA reruns episodes throughout the week).

(Photos courtesy of USA Networks)


‘The Trader’ a key to Jay and Tyler’s innocence in ‘Traveler’

June 29, 2007

Jay (Matthew Bomer) and Tyler (Logan Marshall-Green) return to New York City looking for Derek Sellers in “The Trader.”  What they found drives a rift between the two.  Meanwhile, Will (Aaron Stanford) returns to Deer Harbor in this episode of Traveler before going after the organization he works for.

I think “Betrayed” might have been a better title for this episode.  It seems like everyone was felt a little betrayed this episode.

Will and AlexBent on vengeance, Will unknowingly retraces Jay and Tyler’s steps in Deer Harbor and Boston, only to find his insurance missing and to narrowly miss a brush with Agent Marlow (Viola Davis).  He turns to some old friends — Jimmy (Michael Eklund) and Alex (Christina Chang) — for supplies and information.  Unfortunately, Alex, also a member of the agency and whom I assume has a little history with Will, betrays him and tries to take him in as a rogue agent.  He simply wounds her, determined to take out the organization that betrayed him and killed his girlfriend.

In New York, Jay and Tyler found an empty office for Three Continents Investing, but a connection to Holloway Insurance, the company that insured the Drexler, and possible proof that the bombing was a conspiracy.  They turn to sleazy acquaintance from grad school, Eddie Hunt (Tyler Labine), who now works for Tyler’s dad.  What they find is proof that the Hadley Foundation, a nonprofit organization Carlton Fogg (William Sandler), profited greatly from the bombing.

This news that Carlton not only betrayed his son, but quite possibly tried to have him and Jay killed, caused the duo to go separate ways.

Jack and CarltonWhen Tyler goes to confront his father, he finds him meeting with the mysterious Homeland Security Guy, who now has a name — Jack (Neal McDonough).  Tyler’s suspicious of his father’s betrayal are confirmed when Carlton tells him that he was weak and kicks him out of the limo.  But mine were confirmed when Jack told Carlton that he held up his end of the bargain.  But what I want to know, if it wasn’t money, what could be worth a man sacrificing his son?

In the meantime, Jay can’t resist trying to contact Kim (Sanja Bennett) only to find her dad moving out her stuff.  I think he felt betrayed that she didn’t wait for him.  But geez, give the girl a break she was left to deal with all the press without hearing from him.  I think she still loves him, but needed an escape.  And according to the previews for next week, the two reunite.

Likewise, the seeds of betrayal stretched to the FBI as Marlow and Agent Borjes (Anthony Ruivivar) discover the real identity of the man they arrested last week — Otis Wayley, a fellow counter-terrorism agent.   This discovery explains how he was able to escape custody, but not why he was destroying evidence in the Drexler bombing and who helped him escape.  My money is still Agent Chambers (Steven Culp).

Overall a good solid episode.  I can’t believe there are only two weeks left.  If the networks can come up with other well made series like this one, I’d be open to more mini-series.

(Photos courtesy of traveler-fan.com)

Will uses his own ‘tells’ to his advantage in ‘Traveler’

June 28, 2007

While Will (Aaron Stanford) was learning about his tells in this episode of Traveler, Jay (Matthew Bomer) and Tyler (Logan Marshall-Green) — and the audience –were learning more about Will.  Even though the chase might have slowed down in “The Tells,” the intrigue builds as we learn more about Will’s organization.

When we last saw Will, he was at the train station being tagged with a tracking device by the Porter (Billy Mayo) and stuffed into a white van by thugs that work for Will’s bosses.  His bosses obviously knew others are looking for Will or they wouldn’t have had the other two vans as decoys and the ambushed set up.  The question is were they expecting Jay and Tyler to follow or the Porter or someone else?

Speaking of the Porter we learn from a nod that he has indeed been helping Jay and Tyler in order for them to lead him to Will.  And now we know how he’s been able to find Jay and Tyler when the FBI couldn’t — a tracking device in Tyler’s watch.  We still don’t know who the Porter works for and why he’s after Will.  I have a hunch that he works for the good guys.  Why else would he cover Jay and Tyler so they could escape the ambush?  Did the Porter make it out alive?  My guess is yes.  He seems like a resourceful man.

In the meantime, we learn about a few more people in Will’s organization.  First there’s Kate (Stephanie Niznik) who was sent to interrogate Will.  He confirms she’s a part of “Hometown.”  But what is Hometown?  Is it the name of the organization, the name of the mission or just a codeword?

I’d say Kate needs to work on her interrogation techniques, but since she’s no longer around it’s a moot point. See, the thing about tells is that when you tell someone about his tell he can then use it against you.

For a man who showed compassion in saving his two friends from a fiery death in the Drexler bombing, Will is racking up quite a body count — Kate, Paul Murden and the guy with the bomb in the car trunk.  And now that he knows Maya’s dead and killed by the same people he once took orders from, I see the death count rising.

But Will’s recent display of skills has me wondering more about Will’s background.  He obviously has hand-to-hand combat skills and a working knowledge of bombs.  What other skills does he have?  And how long has he been in this business?  Exactly how old is he?   How was Will recruited?  When Jay and Tyler find Will’s stash in the Boston library of passports with various aliases and a selection of currency, I saw flashes from Borne Identity

I understand why Will would have second thoughts about killing Jay and Tyler, a duo he’s lived with and befriend for two years.  But what I’m curious about now is why did Will volunteer for this operation to begin with.  He obviously believed in what he was doing — at least at one time — but why did he volunteer?

Probably more importantly, why did he have second thoughts about this mission?  Was it the friendship with Jay and Tyler?  Was it his relationship with Maya?  Or did he find out that he didn’t work for the good guys?

Either way, Joseph (Barclay Hope) — the guy who gave him the order to blow up the Drexler, killing his friends and framing them — must have sensed his reluctance and sent in Paul Murden.  But exactly who is Joseph?  Was he Will’s handler (I’ve been practicing up on my spy talk)?  Does he work for mysterious Homeland Security Guy (Neal McDonough)?  Or is it the other way around?  Where does Derek Sellers and Three Continents Investing fit into the organization?  And what about Murden, was he just suppose to make sure the job was completed or was he to dispose of Will too?

I also still thing that Agent Chambers (Steven Culp) is in on the conspiracy.  Why would he not want Agent Marlow (Viola Davis) focusing on the autopsy of the body found in the Drexler?  Also wasn’t it a bit suspicious that once the FBI identified the body as Murden that the lackey who pick pocketed the pictures from Kim (Sonja Bennett) in “New Haven” was found in Murden’s apartment disposing of evidence?  And just how did that lackey escape FBI custody?

Well in looks like everyone is back in New York for “The Trader.”  I know I’m still an episode behind, but I’m closing in.

Are You Dying to get an iPhone?

June 27, 2007

I know there are some of you out there that might be dying to get one of those new iPhones.  Maybe you have a cell phone already and have to wait until the contract expires before you can make you move.

Well I found a list of Six Ways to Cancel Any Cell Phone Contract so you can get your hands on Apple’s latest and greatest.  However, be forewarned, I think #6 might be farther than even most extreme fan is willing to go.

Here’s a summary (please visit the link above for details):

1.  Sell your contract.
2.  Complain about your service.|
3.  Move.
4.  Wait for a rate change.
5.  Join the military.
6.  Die.

Would Your Exs Endorse You?

June 27, 2007

Fred ThompsonMost candidates are worried about past relationships coming back to haunt them during a presidential election.  That’s not the case for Republican potential Fred Thompson.

Thompson’s exs — both wife and girlfriends — are all coming forward to endorse Thompson should he elect to throw his hat in the ring for the 2008 Republican bid for president, according to Reuters.

Personally, I haven’t made a decision about Thompson, but I think it’s an interesting statement of his character that those who have been in a relationship with Thompson think that he has a quality to be the leader of this country.  Sure, you’d expect his family and friends to endorse him, but those who are no longer in a relationship with him?

Let’s just say I’m glad I’m not running for president, I’d hate to hear what my ex-boyfriends had to say about me.

(Photo courtesy of ABC News)

Maya provides answers on ‘Traveler’

June 26, 2007

In the fourth episode of Traveler, Jay (Matthew Bomer) and Tyler (Logan Marshall-Green) head to Will’s hometown in Maine in an effort to find some clues, but what they find is Maya (Sonja Bennett) and the “Have Books, Will Travel” bookstore.  The pair learned more about their friend Will Traveler (Aaron Stafford) when they meet his girlfriend in “The Out.”  

Jay and Tyler at the Train StationJay and Tyler at the Train StationJay and Tyler at the Train StationCan I just say, it’s really a wonder — maybe dumb luck (or help from that mysterious Porter) — that Jay and Tyler haven’t been caught.  C’mon, there’s a difference between being cautious and acting suspicious.  No wonder everyone can spot Jay and Tyler.  They have to be the two most suspicious acting people around.  Even if you’d never heard of the Drexler bombing, if you spotted these two on the street, you’d want to report them for something just because of the way they act.

That said, I really enjoyed this episode.  I’ve been out of town so I’m a couple episodes behind and just now got the chance to watch this show.  I remember now why I liked it and am a little sad knowing that we are now halfway through the series.

Of course, we learned a little more about Will (or is it Daniel Taft) and have a whole lot more questions.  I’m not sure what I found more interesting that Will stole his moniker from a sign or that he has a girlfriend.

The fact that he had an “out” planned with her is more proof that things didn’t go as planned with The Drexler.  Did Will finally realize he wasn’t working for the good guys?  Did the fact that he didn’t let Jay and Tyler die put him in jeopardy?  When Jay and Tyler saw him at the train station was he heading for a rendezvous with Maya?

Speaking of Maya, who was bugging her shop?  I’m guessing they worked for the Homeland Security Guy (Neal McDonough).  She obviously knew, so I wonder how long have they been bugging her shop.  Was that since the beginning of her work with Will or just since the bombing?  If it’s the latter, how did she figure it out?

I also don’t completely understand the boats.  Were there two boats — The Maya and The Daniel Taft?  If so, what happened to The Daniel Taft?  If they planned to escape on The Maya, what was The Daniel Taft for?  Did Maya know that the same people spying on her were also on her boat?  I understand the need for all the MREs, but what did Maya and Will need all the guns for?

Our favorite Porter (Bill Mayo) has reappeared.  Has he been following Jay and Tyler all this time?  If not, how did he find them again?  Is he helping them, hoping they will lead him to Will?  Who does he work for?  I don’t think it’s the Homeland Security Guy.  And what does he want Will for?

I still think that Agent Chambers (Steven Culp) is either in on the conspiracy or a huge opportunist.  He continues to undermine the investigation and cause fear among the public by giving information to the media.  I think Jay and Tyler’s only hope is Agent Marlow (Viola Davis).  She might not believe their innocent, but at least she’s acknowledging that things don’t add up.  But after her face-off with Chambers, I am intrigued about her past.  Is it making her more likely to see the conspiracy?

And talk about a conspiracy, this thing was really planned out.  To develop those manifestos and to get them up on the Internet so quickly took advance planning.  It was clear that this thing has been in the works for a long time.  I just can’t understand why they chose Jay and Tyler.  It has to be because of their fathers.

I can’t wait to watch the next episode.

(Photo courtesy of imdb.com)

Cartoons of Yesterday Revived for a New Television Audience

June 26, 2007

I love nostalgia and it appears the Cartoon Network and Nicktoons are going to feed my addition.  These two toon networks will be offering newer (and probably hipper) versions of two cartoon series from my youth — Speed Racer and Transformers.

Variety is reporting that Nicktoons will be home to a new version of the 1960s cartoon, Speed Racer, next year.  The launch of the new cartoon will probably coincide with the theatrical release of the live action movie, Speed Racer.  In this updated edition of the Speed Racer cartoon, the son of the original Speed Racer enters a driving school where he learns about his family history, including the brother — the new Racer X — that he never knew he had.  The original order is for 26 episodes, but Lionsgate is hoping the series will continue for a few years.

Also returning to the little screen is one of my husband’s favorites, Transformers, according to The Hollywood Reporter.  On the heels of the box office success of the Transformers movie, Cartoon Network will premier Transformers Animated in January.  This retooled cartoon will feature the Autobots as superheroes who not only fight the Decepticons, but also evil humans.  The series will premier with a 90-minute pilot and a total of 26 1/2-hour episodes have been ordered.

If my children can’t enjoy the originals on television anymore, at least they can enjoy these rejuvenated versions.