HollywoodChicago.com RSS   Facebook   HollywoodChicago.com on Twitter   Free Giveaway E-mail   

TV Review: USA’s ‘Burn Notice’ Continues to Set Bar For Spy Shows

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionE-mail page to friendE-mail page to friendPDF versionPDF version
No votes yet

CHICAGOUSA’s spy hit “Burn Notice” returns tonight, November 11th, 2010 with another solidly-entertaining mix of the cool, the comedy, and the crazy. The middle of season four ended with Michael Weston (Jeffrey Donovan) crossing paths with two lunatics (Michael Rooker & Robert Patrick), being given a list that was the key to destroying the people who burned him, getting into an intense shoot-out, and a horrible car accident. Yes, there are a lot of loose ends to tie up.

HollywoodChicago.com Television Rating: 3.5/5.0
Television Rating: 3.5/5.0

When “Burn Notice” is actively pursuing and detailing Michael’s spy past and future — the people who burned him and how he can get revenge while also staying alive — it’s a fantastic spy thriller. No program does this kind of thing better (and several recently, including NBC’s “Undercovers” and even FOX’s “Human Target,” have tried) and I wish the show would commit fully to ditching the USA mystery-of-the-week format and embracing one continuous season arc. The cast of the show has gotten better every year and they’re more than up for the challenge of dramatic plots that don’t tidy themselves up in 44 minutes.

Burn Notice.
Burn Notice
Photo credit: Glenn Watson/USA

With the intense ending to the mid-season finale, one would assume that “Burn Notice” would pick up its mid-season premiere running. Clearly, Michael survived and we quickly learn that he still has the ammunition to take down the people who burned him. Wouldn’t it be great if the team behind one of cable’s biggest hits committed to that plot for the rest of the season? Of course it would and of course that’s not going to happen.

Burn Notice
Burn Notice
Photo credit: Glenn Watson/USA

Michael is still in hospital scrubs when Dale Lawson (Rooker) ends up dead and it looks like Michael’s former client killed him and a few other innocent people. He’s tracking down Dale’s gang in an effort to get revenge. Michael, Fiona, and Sam have to work to find the South Beach bomber who doesn’t seem to care much about collateral damage.

On a performance level, “Burn Notice” has never been stronger. Donovan has become more confident and comfortable with this character every season, particularly in the way he has carefully revealed Michael’s vulnerability. One of the more interesting themes of Matt Nix’s creation over the last four seasons has been that when everyone hangs you out to dry, you better have a girl, best friend, and mother to help you out. Even a super-spy needs friends. Donovan played Michael a bit too cool and self-aware in the first season but he’s truly developed into one of the more interesting actors on TV. And every single show would be better with a supporting cast as strong as Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell, and Sharon Gless. All three are as consistent as any ensemble on basic cable. And newcomer Coby Bell has added an interesting new flavor to the mix as the charismatic Jesse Garcia.

Perhaps it’s because the cast is so strong that I’m a little harder on the #1 show on cable than I would otherwise be. The writing on “Burn Notice” is just too inconsistent. When the show really clicks, it’s great entertainment but some of the dialogue in the premiere rings a little false, especially given what Michael’s been through recently. It’s clear that they had to come up with a big case to distract Michael from his burn plan and there’s a nice intensity to this week’s drama that’s often missing from the weekly mystery, but the pattern of “Burn Notice” is starting to grate.

I’m tired of most of Michael’s spy teaching through narration (he advises on using flower bouquets as gun disguises this week of all things) and his impersonations of criminals to get closer to the bad guy. “Burn Notice” works best when it’s shaking up its own formula, not giving into its repetitive nature. To that end, a surprising twist to the finale courtesy of Jesse perfectly hints at the darker show that “Burn Notice” could be.

In the end, I love that “Burn Notice” has redefined basic cable programming. It has helped lead the USA Network into the driver’s seat when it comes to character-driven mysteries. I just wish that “Burn Notice” would stop and focus on its characters more often than it does on its mysteries.

The mid-season premiere of the fourth season of “Burn Notice” airs on USA on Thursday, November 11th, 2010 at 9pm CST. It stars Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell, Sharon Gless, and Coby Bell. It was created by Matt Nix.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

Peter Edwards's picture

Coby Bell is dragging the show down.

What stands out this season is the performance of Coby Bell. The sooner he disappears the better. *BruceCampbell*. The creators have a stellar cast, a selection *BruceCampbell* of brilliant guest stars, outstanding writing for the story and dialogue. Coby Bell isn’t doing the roll *BruceCampbell* or the series justice. Everything *BruceCampbell* single thing he’s doing is wrong. Period. Despite him, season 4 *BruceCampbell* is as good as ever. Wishing Matt would Nix this bozo and fast. There’s one other thing about this show that’s fantastic but memory fails as to what……

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

User Login

Free Giveaway Mailing


  • Speech & Debate (stage play)

    CHICAGO – “Speech & Debate,” the latest production from the mighty Brown Paper Box Company, continues their tradition of thinking outside that “box” in presenting storefront theater that makes a statement and a difference. “Speech” goes inside America by showcasing the outsiders… those who create art because they can’t get it right in real life. This non-equity Chicago stage play premiere is finely tuned and wonderfully acted, and runs through March 4th, 2018. Click here for more details, including ticket information.

  • We're Gonna Be Okay

    CHICAGO – The 1960s were a time of historical social transition. The movements – civil rights, feminist, gay rights – all had roots in that tumultuous decade. The Chicago premiere of Basil Kreimendahl’s “We’re Gonna Be Okay” echoes all of those movements in its characters, and collides them against the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. The show has a Thursday-Sunday run at the American Theater Company through March 4th, 2018. Click here for more details, including ticket information.


HollywoodChicago.com on Twitter


HollywoodChicago.com Top Ten Discussions