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.
I 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.
And 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)