Spy Goes Home Again in 'Burn Notice'
Now, USA Network has effectively taken that premise -- intentionally or otherwise -- for its own purposes and turned it into the fun and thrilling comedy-drama series "Burn Notice," premiering Thursday, June 28.
Jeffrey Donovan plays Michael Westen, a spy who, while in the midst of a dangerous mission, is suddenly and mysteriously given a "burn notice." For some reason, he has been fired, and since he knows too much, he is stripped of his credit cards, Social Security number and basically his entire identity, and trapped in a location where he is under constant surveillance by his former bosses and co-workers. However, Michael's "prison" is his hometown of Miami, where he is unable to even rent a car to get out and discover who burned him and why.
He also has to contend with his mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless), a hypochondriac who is constantly calling and asking if he is coming by for Christmas. Michael had never wanted to come home, but now he's stuck with family woes in addition to constantly trying to stay under the spy network radar.
Michael does have some help. He's got his only friend, former spy Sam (the always terrific Bruce Campbell), as well as his ex-lover, former IRA soldier Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar). And as he tries to determine who is responsible for his predicament, Michael funds his ongoing investigation by using his Special Ops experience to help those whom the police can't -- or won't.
Donovan is terrific as Michael, displaying a calm, cool wit while trapped in his dire situation, a persona similar to his wry role in the short-lived series "Touching Evil." From the first moment, you are on the side of this very likable character. With the intertwining intrigues of Michael's search along with his working to help those in need, there is plenty of action.
But the series doesn't rely on an overabundance of explosions and stunts. The characters always come first, and they are all very well realized.
One in particular is Fiona. Anwar, while not a major presence in the pilot, displays such strength that one can actually believe her character was once a soldier. She kicks some butt right away, and when asked how much fight training she needed for the role, she matter-of-factly responds, "None. I'm born that way! (She was once kicked out of a school in England for fighting.) I hope [we see more of that]. I think that my character does have some anger issues, and I can work my own out!"
As Fiona, the British Anwar manages a good Irish accent, which came quite easily. "I had just spent the summer in Dublin last year," she says, "so I was surrounded by Irish folk, and I guess a little bit rubs off."
Research was also not a problem. "I had met a couple of very interesting, shady characters while I was in Ireland. I don't actually officially know what they did for a living anyway," Anwar says, laughing. "It made for a very interesting character study."
Viewers will discover right away the good humor in the series, but that wasn't as apparent to Anwar until later on. "I didn't realize it was as funny as it was. When I saw the pilot, I had a sudden panic thinking how I had been misguided. I didn't think I was playing a comedy, and then I spent the entire pilot laughing! It may have been inadvertently!"