Summer TV is a great wasteland, especially since game shows and reality TV have become popular. At least we have the Closer on TNT and Dr. Who on Sci Fi. Now there is a new one that seemed to spring out of nowhere - Burn Notice.
This is quite a clever show, about a spy named Michael Westen who gets notified of his burn notice on his cell phone while trying to make a deal with some Middle Eastern looking characters. What is a burn notice? It means a spy is done, he is out of work, they drop him in a city and freeze his bank accounts as well as all ID's. He's got nothing and can't even leave the town they dump him in.
Westen is very well played by Jeffrey Donovan. Much of the show is done with him narrating which really adds quite a bit of interest as he explains how and why a spy operates. He has some good supporting people but Donovan pretty much IS the show and he is definitely up to the task. I first remember him in a remake of a British police show called Touching Evil. Donovan's character was supposed to be a little crazy due to a gunshot wound to his head, and he really does have a crazy look about him.
But in Burn notice he goes it one better and adds in humor. He's brilliant at the low key humor and that crazy gleam in his eyes makes him believable as a deadly spy. But the best part is his narration, he gives us a blow by blow of what spy's do and why, how they manipulate situations to their advantage. Often with an idea like this the execution isn't nearly as good as the idea but in Burn Notice it's actually better than the idea. He does stuff you really think a spy would do, like instead of facing the bad guys directly he changes the situation to surprise the other guys and give himself a major advantage. A real spy would know that no matter how good he is he just might encounter someone better or that mistakes can happen and would take steps to make sure the odds are always in his favor, and that is exactly what Donovan does in this show. He is trying to find out who put out the burn notice on him so he can do something about it, in the meantime he has to hang out in Miami, where they dumped him and his home town. He takes on small jobs to earn some money and usually ends up helping people, and the FBI are watching him constantly.
Concept, writing and acting are all just right in this one, and that was right off the bat. Often a new show has potential but needs some time to find their rhythm, but Burn Notice hit it exactly on from the very beginning and has maintained that same level through 3 shows so far. So it has become my new must see show for the summer.
It can be seen on USA channel on Thursday nights, plays at 9 pm in Southern California.