When normal people like us get sacked, life offers nothing more scary than a frantic scouring of sits vacant ads. If it gets really desperate and humiliating, it might involve a trip to the Job Centre. Get sacked by the CIA, though, and you could end up homeless and penniless with nary a passport or credit card to your name. It’s called a Burn Notice.
When super spy Michael Westen gets his burn notice, he’s dumped in Miami with no one to watch his back but a psychotic, gun-happy ex-girlfriend who used to be in the IRA, an old buddy who’s informing on him to the FBI, and the most passive aggressive mother on the eastern seaboard.
You know when you’ve been burned.
Cut off from making an honest living, his only recourse is to use his mad spy skills to help normal folks out, taking on the consumer complaints of the small guy. It’s like BBC’s Watchdog being run by the Spooks cast. Westen is Nicky Campbell, just better looking, with straighter teeth, sharper suits, cool shades, and guns… lots of guns.
Not that Michael Westen always goes for the steel. No, he’s much more inventive than that: ‘For a job like getting rid of the drug dealer next door, I’ll take a hardware store over a gun any day. Guns make you stupid. Better to fight your wars with duct tape. Duct tape makes you smart.’
You can pick up lots of handy tips watching Burn Notice. Want to beat someone up without breaking your hands? Do it in the bathroom. Lots of hard surfaces. Need to lose that car on your tail? Don’t drive fast, drive slow, and like an idiot. Want to take out a surveillance camera? Shoot a laser at it and overload the light sensitive chip.
I’ve adopted every one of these into my daily life and am getting great results.
Burn Notice is the mirror image of that other recent spy series, Chuck. Westen is not a normal guy thrust into the dangerous world of international espionage like Chuck Bartowski. He’s a super spy thrust into the bewildering world of normality; a world in which he is not so skilled (a bit like John Cusack in Grosse Point Blank). Guns, bombs and hand to hand combat he can handle. Mums, brothers and girlfriends are much tougher. Even when the girlfriend is an ex-IRA operative who really really loves guns. She loves them so much she’s got arms stashes all over the city.
She’s played by Gabrielle Anwar. Yes, the one who used to do graphic design for the Press Gang! She also starts out with the worst Oirish accent since, oh… them plastic Paddies in the last season of Heroes. Thankfully, she ditches it post-pilot under the pretext of trying to ‘fit in’. Yes, Gabrielle, atrocious comedy accents are not the best thing when you’re supposed to be under cover. If Michael hadn’t been away so long he’d have told you that.
It may not be a contender for the most worthy TV series currently on our screens (like Breaking Bad, Mad Men and Battlestar Galactica), but that’s not what Burn Notice is about. It’s a lot of glamorous fun with killer locations, killer suits and killer dialogue. It’s fast and funny high-concept entertainment that you can’t help watching with a grin.