USA seems to be the network to watch, with a consistent unveiling of new shows that manage to wrap the viewer up in not only the scenarios the shows present, but the characters that inhabit the worlds. Enter Burn Notice, a USA original that just started its second season and recently enjoyed a full season release on DVD. Like Monk and Psych before it, Burn Notice came up with a unique premise among the TV world (something not easy to do) and managed to keep it interesting not only for its first season, but (so far) for its subsequent seasons as well. If you still think of the USA Network as one that can only offer up old movies and reruns of network TV, then think again—a few more this like its current crop of USA originals and it might just pair up with FX as two cable stations that give the networks a run for their money.
When Michael Weston (Jeffrey Donovan) is on the job as a covert intelligence operative, he finds out, mid-mission, that he’s received a burn notice. With no choice but to run, Michael is soon on the hunt for the individual who black listed him but before he can figure out what happened, he wakes up in Miami with his old trigger-happy girlfriend hanging over him. Given orders not to leave Miami otherwise he’d be taken in, Michael sets up shop and begins to take on local cases for some revenue. Backed up by his ex-girlfriend Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) and Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell), Michael begins to clean up some of Miami’s dirtiest, all the while trying to track down those responsible for his burn notice.
On first glance a film about a covert intelligence operative trying to find out who burned him would sound like a short lived series. It can only go on for so long, based on premise alone, but once you get into the show you realize that the show can really go anywhere it wants. Michael could get back into the intelligence game and the show could go on without a hitch. While the show may revolve around his desire to find out where his burn notice originated, I’m never really wrapped up in the efforts when that’s the focus of the episode. It’s entertaining to watch, sure, but I’m more interested in the characters themselves and the weekly adventures they have.
That is what makes Burn Notice such a delight to watch. While the scenery is nice to feast your eyes on, it’s the characters and their interactions with one another that really keep you coming back. I honestly just started watching the show because of Bruce Campbell, but while his character is certainly one of the many enjoyable aspects of it, his role as a supporting character meant it was the leads job to get me to come back and before long Michael and Fiona’s combination of bickering and love for one another was just too engaging to pass up.
There is only one element of the show that grew tiresome and that was the role of Michael’s mother, played by Sharon Gless. There’s nothing wrong with her acting, it’s just the character is absolutely annoying. She constantly bemoans the fact that Michael won’t talk about his job or what he did in his job before the burn notice and whenever he slightly lets her in she just brushes it off and then continues on her diatribe an episode later. I’m not sure what purpose her character is serving, as even though it’s funny to see Michael squirm around her, she really has yet to add anything of value to the show.
The mom aside, Burn Notice is a really fantastic show. It’s got plenty of action, is laden with humor and there isn’t really anything to not enjoy about the show. Not to mention the 1973 Dodge Charger that shows up early on in the series…always nice eye candy. Highly Recommended.
Burn Notice saw DVD release just prior to the second season premiere on USA, so those who are just stepping into the series on its second season will find it quite easy to snag the previous set, should they want to go back and catch up on all that happened in the first season. Admittedly there’s a lot of Burn Notice’s first season that could be glossed over, but it’s the episodes and storylines inside them, even if they don’t really carry over from episode to episode, that make it worth watching. Fox Home Entertainment has released Burn Notice in a four disc set, containing all eleven episodes packed into two slim-pak cases (two discs per). An insert for other Fox titles is included and menus for the set are simple and easy to navigate.
There are a couple minor quibbles about the set to point out. Each disc has this season two preview that plays before the menu loads, so if you’re a first-time viewer, you’re going to have some elements of this first season ruined for you. Luckily I skipped past this intro every time I had it load in front of me, so I didn’t have too much ruined, but it was a very stupid thing to put before the episodes. A selectable extra on the final disc, yes…but not on every disc; as that’s just not good practice for a season set, especially when it’s the series first season.
Video and audio for the set is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround. The surround track is fantastic and really spreads the wealth around the room throughout the season, but I felt the video transfers were a bit lacking. There was a lot of compression and grain mixed together that would occasionally create very ugly transfers. Overall it was a fair representation, but it’s certainly the weakest modern television show I’ve seen on DVD. It may have just been the shows budget, but nothing else about the show (or this set) really came off as cheap, so who knows.
Moving onto the extras we have a commentary of sorts on all eleven episodes. I say “of sorts” because there it’s not over the entire episode but rather specific scenes. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a DVD do this, but it makes sense as it gets rid of any dead air during the commentary and instead replaces it with specific bits of information. Each one of the episodes has its own “Get Burned” menu option to check out the commentary tracks, which contain show creator Matt Nix and stars Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell and Sharon Glass commenting over scenes that focus on each of their characters. In particular I found Campbell’s commentaries the best, but that may just be the fan in my speaking; he did have humorous stories and bits of information to pass along, although that could really be said of everyone. Still, the little commentary bits are well worth listening to—which is good, because the rest of the extras on the set are rather half-assed.
“Character Montage” (1:30), “Girls Gone Burn Notice” (2:20) and “Action Montage” (2:43) are all just clips of the show spliced together in themed reels, while “Outtakes” (3:10) and “Audition Footage” (9:50) are the only real “behind-the-scenes” extras to check out. The audition footage with Jeffrey Donovan and Gabrielle Anwar is interesting to check out, but even at ten minutes it’s pushing it. I just watched a whole season of them; it’s easy to see why they got their roles on the show. “Saving Grace TV Show Music Video” (3:05) is something completely unrelated to the show, although I guess “Saving Grace” is a show on USA.
Overall it’s a bit of a slipshod set, but the scene specific commentary on every episode is worth checking out and the show has the same level of re-watchability that Psych has: even when you know that the result is, it’s still worth watching again just for the comedy.
Burn Notice Season One is now available on DVD. The second season is now airing on USA Network.