Thursday, July 10, 2008

'Notice:' Time To Get Burned Again

After "Mad Men," my favorite show of last summer was "Burn Notice," about a former spy who is "burned," i.e. fired by his agency.

Broke, but with an unusual skill set, Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) finds himself working as private eye, helping the helpless and trying to find out why he was burned.

He enlists his ex-girlfriend Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar), a former IRA gunrunner, and another ex-spy Sam (Bruce Campbell) to help him on his cases. He must also deal with his neurotic mother (Sharon Gless).

At the end of last season, Michael was close to finding out why he was burned, but his informant is killed at the last moment.

Season 2 opens tonight (USA, 10 p.m.) with Michael under the control of a mysterious handler (Tricia Helfer), who directs him to help a computer software engineer steal data from a private defense contractor. Next week's episode sees Michael trying to bring down a drug runner while attending therapy with his mom.

"Burn Notice" works on several levels, most notably the interaction among the main characters. Donavan and Anwar have great chemistry in their on-again, off-again relationship, and who makes a better sidekick than Campbell?

In addition, the series has a lot of fun with the spy genre, as Michael takes the time to explain to viewers how spies handle various situations. True fans who watch every episode will likely be able to pull their own stings and outwit security measures if they take careful notes during each show.

It took a while for "Burn Notice" to return thanks to the WGA strike, but good things have come to those of us who waited. And for those who missed Season 1, it's actually a series that's pretty easy to get into.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: NBC cuts down the "Last Comic Standing" (NBC, 8 p.m.) to the final 12 with three hours of standup.

The new reality series "Greatest American Dog" (CBS, 8 p.m.) debuts tonight. My dog, Riley, would have won had he not died a couple of years ago. After a "CSI" rerun, there's a new "Swingtown" at 10 p.m.

ABC follows a rerun of "Grey's Anatomy" with the real-life "Hopkins," (ABC, 10 p.m.) in which there are no McDreamys but real-life docs at work.

Finally, TBS airs new episodes of "Bill Engvall" and "My Boys," beginning at 9 p.m.


zodin2008 said...

It's rather humorous to me how there was literally NOTHING new to watch the last two nights, and then Thursday is jammed pack. It's like the Fall that way.

Besides of course watching the wonderful "My Boys", I have also (ahem) been watching and surprisingly enjoying "Swingtown" if you take it for what it is - light and fun. But I am most excited now about the return of "Burn Notice".

Phillip, I took your advice and finally got around to watching S1 through netflix and literally finished it 2 weeks ago. I am now excited for S2.

Even better is the arrival of Tricia Helfer (six on "Battlestar") as his sexy new handler. I can't wait to see Sam (Bruce Campbell) hitting on her.

Of course, her arrival has given me a great idea for the show: "Burn" should now hire actor James Callis (the Brit who plays Six's love interest, Dr. Gaius Baltar on "Battlestar") to come in as a former love interest of both Helfer's character and Fiona - and he happens to be a cocky, MI-6 agent at the top of his game, who arrives in Miami hunting an international terrorist - and also happens to be a rival in the spy game of Michael's.

Tell me that wouldn't be great casting and a whole lot of fun?

(thinking he'd be very James Bond-ish...)

Jonathan said...

"Burn Notice" is ridiculous fun, and I cannot wait. The only problem I had with S1 was I found the family interaction a little cliched, the nagging mother and the gambling addicted brother, so it would be nice if those scenes got a little better or were scratched all together. Although, based on your description of next week's episode, I assume Mom isn't going anywhere.

And am I the only one who after watching an episode hears Michael narrating for me in my head as I try to sleep? Probably so; scratch that.

zodin2008 said...

Jonathan, excellent call regarding Westen's family.

I have actually never been a big Sharon Gless fan at all and seeing her show every week feels forced and trite. I think the cast should literally just be Michael-Fiona-Sam and the mother could have come and made a funny guest appearance sometime and maybe gone for an actress more adept at comedy.

(or the complete opposite and more creative idea would have been to go the "Alias" route and eventually, the mother character arrives and turns out it's a Lena Olin type who Michael later finds out is in the spy game - but playing for the other side).

Seriously, the best aspects of "Alias" was the complex relationships of the Bristows - Sydney, Jack and her Russian spy mom played by Olin. (and the father-daughter relationship between Jennifer Garner and Victor Garber will go down as one of my all time favorite on TV, right there with Keith and Veronica Mars).

But pretty much any scene between Michael, Fiona, Sam - slam dunk, Grade A.

Also, I have to agree with the Michael Westen voiceovers...and Phillip's right, they add A LOT to the series as well. Funny thing is, Jeffrey Donovan did voiceovers for the short lived but great show, "Touching Evil", which was on USA a few years back.

Phillip Ramati said...

You get to see a lot more of Helfer in Ep. 2, which is always a good thing.

I think I enjoy the voiceovers the most.

There's no trace of Michael's brother, though he is mentioned briefly. The stuff with the mom is slightly toned down this season, but not by much.