10 January 2010

Letters From The TV Front

Burn Notice Season 1

Feel the burn
We’ve all heard of them; Prison break, Heroes, Lost, 24. They are the American TV shows that made it big in the UK. Picked up by Sky, Channel 4 and the BBC, these are the shows deemed exciting enough to cross the pond. But in this week’s letter, we turn our screens to a lesser known gem of TV delight, USA network’s Burn Notice. Burn Notice follows the recent times of Michael Weston (Jeffery Donovan), a freelance spy working for a major American agency. While on assignment in Nigeria however, he receives word that he’s been “burned”, a term used by governments when a spy’s employment is terminated. The introduction to the series puts it nicely: “When you’re burned, you’ve got nothing. No cash, no job history and you’re stuck in whatever place they decide to dump you”; In Weston’s case, his home town of Miami. The series revolves around jobs Michael takes from ordinary people, using his super-spy skills to battle car thieves, con men, gangsters and the occasional Ukrainian assassin while continuing the wider story arc – trying to find out who burned him, and why.

It’s a fresh take on a classic story – the spy left out in the cold. But the charm of this series is brought by the superb mix of cool spy action and the people in Michael’s life: “A trigger happy ex-girlfriend (Gabrielle Anwar), an old friend who’s informing to the FBI (The legendary Bruce Campbell), family too . . . if you’re desperate”. It’s a tongue in cheek look at the life of an ex spy – juggling old friends, avoiding his mother and trying to earn money all the while jumping from windows, getting shot at and creating ridiculous spy contraptions (MacGyver Style). My personal favourite part of the series is the helpful tips Michael gives as part of the first person narration. Things like “Bathrooms are the best environment for hand to hand combat. . .lots of hard surfaces” and one of my personal favourites: “When you can't win in a fight, sometimes you have to settle for making sure that if you lose, everyone loses. It works for nuclear weapons; it works for me.” These golden nuggets of espionage information give the show a cool flavour and make you wonder just how the writers get this stuff (Tips also include ways to make phoney cheques and how to deliver a convincing mail bomb).

In the end, like I say, it’s the characters that make this series. The action from episode to episode keeps you entertained, but the personalities of the people keep you coming back for more. Just a word of advice: In the first episode, Fiona’s accent is hideous and Michael’s mother grates on your nerves. But don’t fear, they sort that out in the next episode right as rain!

Rating (If you’re into that sort of thing): 100%


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