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BURN NOTICE: SEASON ONE

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell, Sharon Gless
Creator: Matt Nix
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 532 Minutes
Release Date: June 17, 2008

“Dealing with a blown cover is about stalling for time. Stay alive long enough to figure out what they know, and tell a bigger lie to save yourself.”

Shows ***

Burn Notice is a series that’s got three things going for it; a great title, a terrific lead character, and most of all, a terrific and original premise. Actually, there’s a fourth thing going for it, but I’ll get to that later. The best way to sum up this series is a more comedic version of 24, minus the real time plot scenarios.

I can’t remember the last TV series I saw with such an inventive premise. I also can’t remember a show that blends action, mystery and comedy so flawlessly. And not since Miami Vice has the setting of Miami looked any hotter.

The title refers to what a government agency issues a covert agency once they get blacklisted. For Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan), that happens at the worst possible time. While in the middle of an arms deal with Nigerian gunrunners, Michael makes a call to his employer to get some money wired, only to find out that his agency can’t help him with anything anymore.

As Michael informs us through voice over, when you’re burned, you’ve got nothing. That is, you’ve got no cash, no credit, and most importantly, no job. And you also have to be satisfied with whatever city the agency decides to dump you in, which in Michael’s case is sunny Miami.

Michael isn’t too fond of Miami, and when he awakens to find himself there, it’s easy to understand why. He wakes up to find none other than his ex-girlfriend, Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar), by his side. The two fell hard, while Michael was on assignment and while she was a gun-toting member of the IRA.

Not only does Michael find Fiona back in his life, but he also teams up with longtime friend, and ex-agent Sam (Bruce Campbell), to help him in finding out who had him burned. But good friends are hard to come by, as Sam admits that he has been informing on Michael to the FBI, only to ensure that he doesn’t lose his pension.

And if that wasn’t enough, Michael still has to put up with his nagging mother (Sharon Gless). She’s a chain smoker, as well as a hypochondriac, who always seems to pop up in Michael’s life at the worst possible moment. She wants him to be closer to her, since he left home at an early age, mostly due to an abusive father, who’s now deceased.

As this first season progresses, Michael runs across some shady and dangerous people. Since Miami is filled with arms dealers, drug dealers, pimps, con men and so forth, Michael has clearly got a lot to keep himself busy with. And since Michael is in deep cover from the start, the only way to go from there is even deeper.

In the lead role, Jeffrey Donovan is a true discovery. I had never really seen him in anything prior to this, except a small supporting role in the movie Hitch, but he adds a lot of quirky personality to the role of Michael Westen, making the character his own. In addition, Michael Westen is one of the best characters to come along in any television series of recent memory.

And I mentioned earlier that Burn Notice had a fourth thing going for it, and her name is Gabrielle Anwar. You may remember her as the young woman Al Pacino tangoed with in Scent of a Woman, and she’s always been quite a beauty. But here, man she has reached an all time level of hotness, and the fact that she’s a tough little trigger-happy babe with a taste for trouble makes Ms. Anwar even hotter!

Though Burn Notice takes a bit to get used to in some areas (the constant freeze-frame technique does tend to wear out its welcome), it is without question a fun ride. It’s energetic, funny and terrifically written. It’s one series I will be definitely looking forward in future seasons.

Video ***1/2

The series is presented in a nice anamorphic widescreen presentation from Fox. The image quality is tremendously sharp and the colors are put to great use in showing off the sun-blazing style that the Miami setting has to offer. I did notice some bits of grain here and there, but nothing phenomenally distracting at all. All and all, a terrific presentation of a TV show on DVD.

Audio ***

The 5.1 mix provides a most impressive sound quality. The presentation gets a major boost in the form of numerous action/fight sequences and frequent playback of the show’s music score. Dialogue delivery is in pure top form, as expected.

Features ***

This 4-disc package from Fox delivers a good enough level of extras to go along with this show’s introductory season. Among the extras are scene-specific audio commentary for each episode featuring show creator Matt Nix and stars Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell and Sharon Gless. Also included are a gag reel, Character montage, Action montage, Girls Gone Burn Notice montage, and audition footage featuring Donovan and Anwar.

Summary:

Burn Notice is a terrifically entertaining and all around fresh series. From the one-of-a-kind characters to the humor and the ever-escalating mystery that drives the first season, this is one piece of television that deserves to be discovered.

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