Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A "Burn Notice" Post

"Burn Notice" is one of those shows that I find myself watching very sporadically. The spy game stuff is a lot of fun, and I like the Miami setting, the whole schtick with Michael Westen's tips for being a better spy, and the well-rounded cast. It's nice that Hollywood vets like Bruce Campbell and Sharon Gless, along with former ingenue Gabrielle Anwar have all landed somewhere warm, where they get to play with guns and explosions occasionally. It just never hooked me so much that I felt compelled to seek the show out on a regular basis. However, I've recently been watching a couple of episodes of Season 6 with some friends, and realized that the plot of the show had actually advanced considerably from the early days. Just saw the season finale from last week, so I thought I'd put down a few thoughts. Spoilers ahead for the season.

Michael Westen, our hero, has not only figured out who burned him, but is being blackmailed by the guy who did it, one Anson Fullerton, played by Jere Burns. Speaking of Hollywood vets, I remember Burns bouncing around between about four or five different short-lived sitcoms back in the 90s, including "Mommies," always playing the sarcastic type. Now he's older with a much more interesting face, and he makes for a great villain. It was such a nice surprise to see him pop up here. It had never crossed my mind that "Burn Notice" needed a regular Big Bad, but now that it has one, I hope he sticks around for a while. There's also a new guy in Westen's team, a former agent named Jesse, played by Coby Bell. He apparently had a big arc that I missed completely, and I'm not so sorry I did. He doesn't really add much to the latest episodes I've been watching.

It seems to be business as usual for the rest of the gang. Bruce Campbell's Sam Axe is my favorite character, and I got a chance to see "The Fall of Sam Axe" prequel TV-movie special a while back. It was too long and was giving me flashbacks to really bad action films of the 80s, but it was fun and diverting. I got all the jokes and the references, but I like Sam better as a schlub and a sidekick, and Bruce Campbell only barely managed to pull off playing an action hero again for two hours. Fiona has hardly changed, which is a relief. She's one of the only women in these cable action shows that actually looks like she belongs in the thick of the action. I think it's something about her face or her voice of her trigger-happy attitude that makes me take her completely seriously as a badass, even when her persona is played for laughs.

Oh, and the on-again, off-again romance between Michael and Fiona is definitely on again, but I don't know if it's for the best. Jeffrey Donovan is very good playing Michael Westen as super cool and perpetually put-upon, but he's lousy at emoting. The show gives him a few big, heartfelt love scenes with Fi at the end of the season finale that just don't come off at all. It was almost a relief to see them separated at the end of the hour. On the other hand, the goofy dialogue played a big part in it too. As fun as "Burn Notice is for the action scenes and the over-the-top characters, the writing is pretty dire. I don't think it even rises to the level of the old 80s action shows like "The A-Team" and "MacGyver" most days, and that's not really a high bar.

But it doesn't matter so much on the whole. The show's formula is rock-solid and entertaining. The budget has gotten a noticeable boost, and the action and effects scenes have upgraded considerably as a result. In the finale alone, we had car flips, an exploding warehouse, an exploding airplane, a sustained gun battle, and more. It also featured an unusually star-studded guest cast, including Dean Cain and Kristana Loken. "Burn Notice" does a couple of things very, very well and that's enough. There's no need to complicate things further.

I don't know that I'll be back for next season, honestly, since I have a lot of other things to watch, and this one has slipped through the cracks before. However, I am glad the show is doing well and we can expect more "Burn Notice" to come. I'll catch up eventually, someday.

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