I didn't know this two years ago, but a "burn notice" is a spy pinkslip indicating you are no longer trustworthy. But instead loosing a steady paycheck they cut you off from all resources, they "burn" you. Oh, the things you learn from television.
And that is the premise of this show, Michael Westen is a burned spy with no idea why. He is smart enough to think in the first episode that it might be some Government Conspiracy
that wants him for a job below even regular spy work. And that mostly proves to be true. Without any sort of employer recommendation and being on the FBI "people to watch" list, he doesn't have much to go on. The only way to make ends meet is to work side-projects with a few friends helping out those in need.
It seems to be a standard We Help The Helpless
type plot, and it is. But what sells the show lies entirely in the execution and characters. Michael is Dangerously Genre Savvy
and Jeffery Donovan performs him as an enigma with a serious yet playful personality. Bruce Campbell is... well, Bruce Campbell. Sam is right up his alley, suave yet obnoxious (in a good way). Gabrielle Anwar is Fiona, who has some problems because of the writing. Fiona is tough but also falls into the trap of being the "prissy female" of the group. It's a difficult character to balance out, but being so aggressive does avoid the pitfall of being The Load
. Sharon Gless is Madeline, but her role is just someone for Michael to worry about.
The show aims to subvert as much of the complicated spy drama as much as possible. What convinced me to keep watching the show comes from a well known line from the pilot "Guns make you dumb. I'd much rather fight my wars with duct tape. Duct tape makes you smart." They aim to make the plans simple but hinge on the skills that Michael employs, so Dont Try This At Home
. Like the best of the action genre these are characters that spend time trying to think their way through a situation, very rarely does it come down to a fist fight.
Part of the fun is seeing just how badly Michael and co. outclass their current foe. But when you want him to have a challenge, there is always a rare competant Villain Of The Week
and the Myth Arc
involving the organization that burned him. But even on an episodic basis it keeps you entertained. You can't ask for much more than that.