The Functional Hermit

musings from a homebody

Burn Notice: a 21st Century A-Team, in a good way

with 6 comments


As a kid, I grew up watching the A-Team. Today, I’m a fan of Burn Notice, which began airing new episodes last night. If you’re not familiar, it’s about a covert operations agent, Michael Westen, (Jeffrey Donovan) who loses his standing with the government. That means he’s got no identity, money, ability to travel or make money. They don’t want him dead. If they did, he would be. And it’s all because he’s being blamed for something he didn’t do.

It’s a dark comedy (but very lightly so) about the spy trade and his place in it. The best parts are the voiceovers where he gives what feels like little ‘insider’ tips on being an operative. For example (not verbatim):

“There’s a huge aftermarket for car parts, that’s why their locks and alarms are generally very good. But there isn’t much demand for motorcycle parts. So if you need to make a quick getaway, it’s pretty easy to steal a motorcycle.”

Stuff like that. I’m usually a sucker for anything involving covert stuff so I’m probably fairly biased. He spends his time trying to get to the bottom of who ‘burned’ him – their term for being cast out of the covert ops society – as well as spending his time helping average joes and joannes who are stuck in tough situations.

He’s helped by his ex girlfriend Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar, playing a former bank robber and operative for the Irish Republican Army) and buddy Sam (Bruce Campbell, playing an boozing ex-Navy SEAL who used to inform on him to the FBI). I think Bruce Campbell is a totally underrated TV actor. There’s also his mother (a very good Sharon Gless) who is never without a cigarette.

This is by no means a very deep show. It’s not think-piece kind of material. In fact, it very much follows the template and predictability of the old A-Team from the 80’s but does it in an entertaining way. First, he’s a fugitive. Second, he only helps ‘little people’ who are in way over their heads with the mob, major crime figures or the like. Third, he has very little regard for getting payment for his services. And fourth, there’s usually a sequence where they have to build an impromptu technological device or explosive to aid in their quest/mission.

Again (not verbatim):

“If you need to quickly improvise a listening device, get yourself a disposable cellphone. The microphone works well but the battery will drain very quickly. As long as you can hook it up to a reliable power source, you’ll have an effective way to listen in.”

This will be read while he/they solder wires and circuit boards to various parts of a dissembled cellphone. Intriguing stuff.

One of my favorite things about this show are his buddy Sam and ex-girl Fiona, who is a total trigger-happy badass. I think my favorite moment in the show was when Michael was pretending to be a street tough who needed to ‘rob’ Fiona of her purse. Well Fiona, at first, starts punching him in the face several times while he pleads with her to just sell the fact that he’s actually robbing her. Maybe it’s just me but I found it hilarious. Actually, my wife thought it was hilarious too so maybe it’s just the two of us.

Last night’s episode picked up right where they left off but also right into the same old pattern. It was exactly what I was hoping it would be and sometimes, that’s all you need from a TV show.


Written by the bee dub

January 23, 2009 at 2:57 pm

6 Responses

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  1. The mom needs to lose the cigarettes, turns my stomach and is insulting to many millions of cancer survivors


    January 25, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    • It’s just realistic. I know close family that has tried to quit but I understand that when your life is screwed up and you’re that stressed out, anything helps. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Not saying I would ever smoke for that reason, but some have cigarettes, some have booze, and some have skydiving.


      March 15, 2012 at 6:11 pm

  2. lose the cigarette for mommy


    January 25, 2009 at 7:40 pm

  3. To each their own I suppose. Do you like the show otherwise?


    January 25, 2009 at 8:04 pm

  4. hey this show is amazing ………….its frickin beast how they just blow up whatever they feel like blowing up


    February 28, 2009 at 5:08 pm

  5. One of the best shows I have seen in years. Sick of cop shows and doctor shows – finally, something different and as awesome as the A team was and still is to this day. Love it.


    October 5, 2011 at 9:52 pm

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