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TV Review: No Sophomore Slump for ‘Burn Notice’

[IMG:L]If there is such a thing as a summer blockbuster TV show, it’s USA’s Burn Notice, whose second season premieres this week (Thursday at 10/9c) with a bang–well, several bangs.

The show, which can be both hilarious and thrilling–often in the same scene–centers on former CIA superspy/current private eye Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan), a suave Miami transplant perpetually trying to figure out who’s behind his “burn notice” (a.k.a. blacklisting from the CIA).

And all the while, as he searches for his saboteur, Michael nonchalantly evades death at every turn and the many enemies he made during his tenure with the Agency.

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Last we saw Michael, he was quite literally driving his car into an 18-wheeler as part of a plan that he’d hoped would lead him to the person(s) who “burned” him.

When season two opens, Michael has grown restless in the 48 hours (in Burn Notice time) that have elapsed and decides that he’s ready to face whatever’s out there, beyond the truck’s closed door.

It turns out that videogame-like pandemonium awaits him–along with a mission laid out for him by a woman on the phone (the voice belongs to Battlestar Galactica’s Tricia Helfer, this season’s under-publicized new addition… Oh, right, spoiler alert!).

The gist of said mission: We’ll scratch your back if you scratch ours–plus, we’ll let you live!

It sets into motion a string of chaotic events (and one helluva fake Australian accent) that Michael thinks will help him crack his own case once and for all, but is he jumping through hoops in vain?

There isn’t just one quality that makes Burn Notice work so well but rather several.

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The supporting cast members–namely Gabrielle Anwar as Michael’s almost distractingly hot ex-girlfriend and Bruce Campbell as his spy crony–are definitely a solid group, but TV journeyman Donovan is a true leading man in both physicality and ability. A rare breed, indeed.

He delivers lines with the perfect affect–or lack thereof–and can dodge harm like Bond (or is it Bourne?). Donovan may look like a pretty boy but he continues to dispel all the accompanying preconceived notions, more so through his character’s sardonic one-liners than machismo stunts.

The writing, more importantly, is utterly impeccable, picking up right where last season’s left off: action, comedy, tension, thrills and spills–none of which is ever mutually exclusive.

All of the aforementioned elements complement each other to keep the show from ever becoming too…anything.

And the execution/direction continues to be uber-stylish, with smash-cuts and freeze frames galore, but never to the show’s detriment. 

Bottom line: Season 2 of Burn Notice appears bent on offering more of the same, which is a very, very good thing. And with a genuinely disturbing amount of reality TV clogging the airwaves this summer, we really needed this show!

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Grade: A-

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