I have a new show. The time has come to write about it. I watched another episode of it last night and it’s just fun. It’s not terribly witty. It’s not terribly fresh. It’s not heavy on a good love story. It’s not clever and very proud of itself for being clever. It’s just a straight-ahead action/drama hourlong with cute actors, stories that drive fast and sharp through the whole hour, and fun. It’s Burn Notice, on USA, and it’s like a combination of Magnum, P.I., a laid-back Miami version of Mission Impossible, and a tiny touch of Veronica Mars thrown in, in the sense that nothing ever seems to throw these characters.
Jeffrey Donovan (who should definitely play my brother-in-law in the family life story) plays Michael Westen, “a spy” (I didn’t watch first season, so I don’t know if it was ever made clear what agency he was with, but they don’t bother tagging it specifically this season) who was “burned”–somebody blew his cover and reported as much to his bosses, which is the “burn notice” that means they will not protect or acknowledge him. He’s on his own in Miami with his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar–much, much more on her in a minute), a buddy named Sam (Bruce Campbell), and his mother, Madeleine (the Cagney half of Cagney and Lacey). The plots are dual: On one side, he’s being recruited for questionable jobs by the people who burned him. He goes along and tries to gather as much information as possible about them while reluctantly working for them. On the other side, he’s doing jobs for people in trouble–a loan shark here, an embezzling frame-up there.
It’s the focus on the Magnum-like plots that makes it work–we’re not supposed to worry too much about what agency Michael was with, what his always-available, always-competent friends do for day jobs. Westen narrates, detailing choice bits of M.I.-style maneuvers and high-tech equipment here and there, and Fiona is his all-around no-need-to-hire-a gun. Guns of every make, shape and size that she doesn’t hesitate to whip out on the least provocation.
Okay, I’ve always loved Gabrielle Anwar, had a soft spot for her ever since Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. I keep going back and forth as to whether she was miscast in this show. She is long and lean, a little too thin and spray-tanned for comfort (the Fug Girls would call her orange), and her accent (she’s English) is wobbly, to say the least, while Donovan (he was born in New England; I already know he does a creditable Southern) takes on and puts off the patois of every area of the country in his dealings with baddies. She’s supposed to be the firecracker siren, but she really strikes me as just cute under all her bad-ass cool. Maybe that’s my aforementioned soft spot for her talking, but whatever–she works in this line-up. In a show that took itself more seriously, she simply would not have enough weight, and I’m hoping they do a little more with her as time goes on. Of the four primary characters, we know hers the least–but of course I’ve come in at the second season and maybe they probed her a bit more in the first. She’s a little brittle right now–the strain of playing a vixen is showing a bit. More Gabrielle!
It’s a fun show, cute and cool, and somebody at USA is smart to run it in the summer.
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