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BURN NOTICE: SEASON TWO
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell, Sharon Gless
Creator:  Matt Nix
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  684 Minutes
Release Date:  June 16, 2009

“She could be the one.”

“So say yes.”

“It’s complicated.”

“So say no.”

“You’re a real friend, Mikey.”

Shows ***1/2

Burn Notice is definitely one of the coolest shows on the airwaves right now…I’m just sorry it took me so long to find that out for myself.  My comrade-in-arms Gordon has always extolled the virtues of the program, and my own wife is a big fan.  Sometimes I’m a little slow…but eventually, I get there.

For starters, the premise of the show is as promising as you can hope for.  Michael Westen (Donovan) is a spy who got put on burn notice as the series began…that is, his agency cut him off without money, job history, identity, or explanation.  Left in Miami, Michael’s only course of action is to try and find out who was responsible for the burn in order to reclaim his life.

On his side is his former FBI pal Sam (Campbell), who used to inform on him to his superiors, and his gorgeous but dangerous ex-girlfriend Fiona (Anwar), who is as smooth with a high-powered rifle or plastic explosives as she is with a dance move.  And let’s not forget his well-meaning but oft-intrusive chain smoking mother (Gless).

As this, the second year begins, Michael gets his first real lead on someone who might have been responsible for his burn notice…a mysterious but highly intelligent woman calling herself Carla.  Who is she, who does she work for, and more importantly, what does she want with Michael?

Each episode centers around Michael and friends helping someone in trouble, be it a friend of his mother’s or his brother, or anyone else having a problem in the system.  Michael’s cool style and dry narrative drives the shows, and the explanations he offers as to how things work in the world of espionage are endlessly fascinating and a smart way to help propel the plots.  All the while, Michael continues to work on getting closer to Carla, who leaves clues in crossword puzzles, pulls the strings on sending Michael into dangerous work, and seems eternally one step ahead, meaning the skillful and stalwart Michael may have indeed met his match.

This is an endlessly fun and entertaining show, mixing comedy, drama and spy-styled action into a solid formula for weekly broadcast.  The actors are all first-rate…Gabrielle Anwar oozes sophistication and deadly sexuality, while the always affable Bruce Campbell proves nobody does comic relief better.  Sharon Gless is a formidable veteran, and it’s terrific to see her again, even behind never-ending clouds of smoke.

But credit Jeffrey Donovan for his superb work as Michael.  He may not look like a typical action hero or suave movie star spy, but his dry wit and low-key charisma is just the right touch, keeping a sense of reality and sanity in increasingly crazy situations.  He exudes an effortless charm that is just perfect for the role…you never get the sense that he’s trying too hard or that he’s in over his head.

If I have one complaint, and it’s a minor one, I could do without the exaggerated editing.  The shots of Miami Beach are beautiful, and don’t require camera tricks like speeding up, reversing, forwarding, and so on.  I saw enough of that on cop shows in the 70s…it sometimes looks like a kid playing with a remote.

That aside, I’m glad I got to join the increasing number of fans for USA Network’s ultra-cool spy show.  This is television entertainment of the highest caliber (no pun intended).

Video ***

There are some noticeable issues with this Blu-ray release…mainly, the consistent visible grain in so many of the shots, particularly in more static backgrounds.  I’m not sure if that’s a transfer issue or a film stock issue, but nevertheless, it’s not something you tend to expect from Blu-ray.  Many of the shots are beautiful, particularly the ones of the beaches and cityscapes of Miami.  The detail level in those are superb, and sometimes almost three-dimensional.  Colors are well-presented and contained throughout, and lines are crisp and clean and well-rendered.

Audio ***1/2

For a television show, Fox pulled out the stops by offering a Blu-ray release with DTS HD sound.  The action and music give this set plenty of dynamic punch, and spoken words are always clear against the beds of effects and tunes. 

Features **1/2

Throughout the three discs, there are occasional audio commentaries by various members of the production teams, and certain episodes also include deleted scenes.  There is a featurette with creator Matt Nix for the episode “Do No Harm”, and a gag reel on the last disc.

Summary:

Consider myself put on notice:  Burn Notice is indeed one of the most entertaining offerings on television today, and with the release of the complete second season on Blu-ray, I personally found there’s no better way to catch up and experience this USA Network offering for myself.

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