Tuesday, July 03, 2007

FanBoyWonder TV Spotlight—USA Network’s ‘Burn Notice’

In an effort to become more of your all-purpose entertainment blog, FanBoyWonder has come across a TV show that’s more than worth watching during these dog days of television programming—Burn Notice on the USA cable network.

Here’s the Upshot from USA: When spies get fired, they don't get a letter from human resources. They get BURNED...

The action/spy genre gets a refreshing update with USA Network's newest original series,
Burn Notice. Jeffrey Donovan stars as Michael Westen, an international spy who suddenly finds himself blacklisted. Dumped in his hometown of Miami without money or resources, Michael struggles to put his life back together and find out why he's been burned. In the meantime, he uses his unique skills and training to help people in need ... mostly people who can't get help from the police.

Michael is joined by Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) an ex-IRA operative, who also happens to be an ex-girlfriend; and Sam (Bruce Campbell), a washed-out military intelligence contact who's being used by the feds to keep tabs on Michael. He's also forced to confront the family he went halfway around the world to get away from—particularly his mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless) who couldn't be happier to have her son back in town.

The premiere episode has already aired but you can get the two-minute replay plus all kinds of other extras about Burn Notice at its USA Network Website: www.usanetwork.com/series/burnnotice/index.html.

For our part, Burn Notice isn’t just one of the best shows of the summer, it’s some of the most original and innovate television to come along in a long time. Not just for the great characters, the clever writing and the witty dialogue but one big thing going for Burn Notice is that it’s set in Miami and to the best of our knowledge it LOOKS like Miami—not Vancouver or Toronto or someplace else in the Great White North dressed up to look like the U.S. of A. (or is that “eh”?).

This is NOT to rag on our friendly neighbors to the North honestly but given that practically half the shows on television (including just about all the sci-fi programs) are filmed in the greater British Columbia area, there are just so many times we can see scenes shot on the same streets at the same buildings and credibly suspend our disbelief.

Okay, we know we’re digressing but one of the best observations ever came from Aaron Sorkin’s now canceled Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip—“Vancouver doesn't look like anything. It doesn't even look like Vancouver. It looks like Boston, California.”

Ok that’s out of our system, back to Burn Notice. From what we’ve already seen, Jeffrey Donovan’s Michael Westen has serious potential as one of THE great television characters.

Westen is less 007’s James Bond than Chevy Chase’s Fletch but he’s neither a goofball nor a pushover. Donovan’s sardonic narration gives just the right comic bite to what can be some pretty dark moments.

Covert intelligence includes a lot of waiting around. Know what it’s like being a spy? It’s like sitting in your dentist’s reception area 24 hours a day—magazines, sip some coffee and every so often, someone tries to kill you.”

Face it, spooks have to do some very unpleasant things and it’s tough to root for a guy who has to do those kinds of things, but we do.

Rounding out the cast is Gabrielle Anwar, whom we’re glad to see again. While we’re sure she’s been steadily working and we just haven’t see her, it does seem like the early ‘90s “it girl” dropped off the map after not quite being able to make it among the A list movie actors.

Her character Fiona is a lot more than just eye candy, although the British-born Anwar’s Irish accent does seem to come straight out of an Irish Spring commercial. She provides both sexual tension for Donovan’s character as well as “tactical support”—meaning she’ll kick arse and take names.

Bruce Campbell—King of the B Movie Actors—is great as Westin’s espionage burn-out buddy Sam. Out of the spy game but always with his ear to the ground, Sam is the “go-to guy” that always knows another guy that every spy/hero/protagonist always needs to get things done.

When not getting things done for Westin, Sam is a gigolo for the middle-aged Miami divorcee who pays for his clothes, his apartment with a view and “an endless supply of blue pills,” while also tipping off the feds as to Westin’s doings.

Sam is a great character because he’s lying and you know he’s lying because his lips are moving but it’s still tough not to like the reprobate.

However, the real show stealer is going to be Westen’s mother played by Sharon Gless. She’s had only two scenes in the pilot and we love her already. She is the character who humanizes our otherwise tough as nails hero.

“People with happy families don’t become spies. A bad childhood is a perfect background for covert ops. You don’t trust anyone, you’re used to getting smacked around and you don’t get homesick.”

Our hero Mr. Westen can take a beating by African warlords and stare down the feds who now follow his every move but he is helpless to resist his mother’s pleading to take her to one of her many doctors’ appointments.

Gless’ ballsy but beautiful Cagney & Lacey days are long since behind her but she still looks quite good into her 6os. As a chain-smoking, pill-popping hypochondriac, Gless is utterly entertaining as the mother who can strike down her otherwise hard-hearted spy with a bolt of guilt-lightning.

Burn Notice will air throughout the summer on Thursday at 10 p.m. (eastern) on the USA Network. It’s worth checking out.


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