The Burn Notice

I'm in a review mood this weekend. First a book, now television.

Up front confession time. I don't have Cable TV. *pause for audible gasps* I used to, but when my recent illness forced me to leave one job and do more freelancing than I'd like, or am probably good at, I had to cut expenses. I canceled my cable. I use my Internet connection for work and play and to communicate with long-lost friends, so it had to stay. Cable, I could do with out.

It's not been bad, it just means I've missed some shows, but with so many networks now showing full episodes, I can watch some there. At first, It was harder on the kids, without Cartoon Network, Nick JR. and Disney, but they do just fine now. We play more board games, read books and have even written and produced a couple of plays. Harry Potter Meets Cinderella totally rocked!

One show I missed but was interested in was USA's Burn Notice. (USA, Drama, 1 hour, Thursdays 11/10c) It stars Jeffrey Donovan who's small roles on shows like The Pretender and Crossing Jordan, have been great, but his best was as a witty, disturbed detective on the short-lived USA drama Touching Evil.

Besides Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar (Scent of a Woman), plays a former girlfriend who's ex-IRA. They have a nice Mr. & Mrs. Smith/Adams Rib vibe. One of my favorite B-list actors, Bruce "The Chin" Campbell (The Evil Dead) stars as Michael's boozy, ex-special forces buddy and steals every scene he's in. The wonderful Sharon Gless (Cagney & Lacey) stars as his chain-smoking, hypochondriac, passive aggressive mom, Madeline. A roll that could have been a cardboard cut-out character in other hands. She brings a great deal of depth, warmth and intelligence to it.

The first episode begins as American Super-Spy, Michael Westen, is in the middle of transferring several thousands of dollars to an arms dealer. He gets a phone call telling him he's just received his Burn Notice, spy talk for getting fired. Not just fired, they freeze his assets, cancel his mobile phone and post FBI tails on him. After getting the crap beaten out of him by the arms dealer's thugs, he hops a plane, passes out and wakes up in his hometown of Miami. It's here that he tries to do two things, find employment and, with the help of his quirky underworld friends, track down who burned him.

The series features neat noir touches, such as first-person narrative, including frequent stream of consciousness voice-overs giving bits of exposition. It also deftly employs the currently over-used, over-arching, season-long, mystery plot. This has been used to great effect in Showtime's Dexter, the first season of Heroes and most recently in NBC's Journey Man. The worst example being NBC's Chuck.

It's fun, quirky, well written and stylish. Donovan does a great job with the role. It's very much in the spirit of shows I grew up watching, shows like The Rockford Files, Switch and Banacek. With a little MacGyver thrown in for good measure. Got some duct-tape, a propane tank, and an aerosol can? You've got a bomb!

The first season is out on DVD and the second season begins in July. It's great Summertime TV! I just found out that Battlestar Gallactica's Tricia Helfer (Caprica 6) will be in several episodes of the upcoming second season. Watch the first season online at Hulu.com.

**UPDATE** Read the Chicago Tribune's Mo Ryan's preview of Burn Notice's second season on her TV centric blog, The Watcher

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