Friday, February 27

In Praise of Burn Notice

I was an impressionable youth in the '80s, the golden age of action TV shows. It's been about two decades since the last great action show went off the air. Sure, there are deadly serious shows with action in them, like Lost, NCIS and 24, but there is only one show that is a direct descendant of the happy-go-lucky, action comedies like of yore, like The A-Team, McGuyver and Miami Vice. Okay Miami Vice was not very funny. But the cool style and professional attitude of the leads was an inspiration for Burn Notice.

Burn Notice
plays like the bastard child of all three of those shows. But with a modern post- Jason Bourne approach to government, spy stories and technology. It is a tonge-in-cheek show with witty dialogue, that doesn't take itself too seriously. Every week Donovan re-jiggers some gadget, wires some explosives or explains spy technique in earnest voice over, McGuyver style. Donovan's always using cell phones as tracking/listening devices. He's taught us how to armor a car with phone books, and the best way to booby-trap your house. But on occasion Donovan brings the ass-kicking or gun-fu. Good stuff.

In case you don't know the hook, it's that Jeffrey Donovan a super-spy is "burned" by even higher up government agents. They took his identity, his money and his security clearance and dropped him deep in the heart of Miami. Sure, it's not the worst place to be, what with photogenic beach bunnies that wander past in slow-mo throughout every episode. But that's where Donovan's worrywort chain-smoking mom (played by Cagney and Lacy's Sharon Gless), his IRA ex-terrorist girlfriend (Gabrielle Anwar) and the always awesome Bruce Campbell as retired FBI agent Sam.

Bruce's Sam is decked out with cheap gold chains, a bevy of ugly Hawaiian shirts and borderline alcoholic tendencies. Bruce has remarkably good timing and comic instincts. I love Bruce and Donovan playing off each other like old spies bickering. It gives me pleasant memories of the give and take of B.A. and Murdock, or Crockett and Tubbs, or Michael Knight and his car. I love how they're old pros at espionage and counter-terrorism, and they're always improvising their way out of predicaments.

My favorite episode of the series was a nod to Die Hard with Donovan stopping a bank robbery as the lone good guy inside the bank. Some of his shenanigans included poisoning a robber with prescription meds, performing surgery on his wounded buddy with a pen-knife and hooking up a cell phone to the bank's internet router to foil the cell phone jamming device of the erstwhile robbers. It was pretty tense for a humorous show, and ten times more entertaining than ghost monsters and time travel on an island.

Unfortunately we're coming to the end of Season 2, so it's probably not the best time to jump onto the Burn Notice bandwagon. But if you're a fan of the show, then we'll have stuff to discuss in coming seasons.


1 comment:

Snail said...

Bruce Campbell is always value for money - although I confess I haven't caught this show yet. Tell me, does he say 'Give me some sugar baby'? That's his catch-phrase you know. He says it in lots of shows. ;)