Happy 2012. O.k., now that that is over with, let’s talk about one of my new favorite TV shows, Burn Notice.
I had a lot of time over the New Years weekend to watch the show and so far I’ve gotten through the first two seasons. I came to realize something after the first couple of shows – this is my old buddy MacGyver repackaged for a new generation.
The comparison isn’t hard to make. The hero of both series is a covert operative who thinks fast on his feet and often gets out of tricky situations with scratch-built solutions. Burn Notice’s Michael Westen does a lot more with fake identities, but in general he and MacGyver seem to come from the same school of covert ops: get your job done, don’t hurt anyone who isn’t trying to hurt you, and don’t kill people. Westen actually has gotten a number of folks killed, but only on one occasion have I seen him actually do the deed himself. He usually incapacitates and lets the police or other authorities (or other villains) do the work for him.
Both Mac and Michael have family issues, though Michael’s are played out more explicitly. Both help people with problems that most sane people would stay out of. Both have a thing for improvising their way out of situations, especially when something goes really bad. And both seem to have an encyclopedia’s worth of knowledge – Mac on improv-science, Michael on improv-electronics and demolitions.
Looking further, you have Sam Axe, Michael’s cohort (played by god-among-men, Bruce Campbell). Mac’s analog? Jack Dalton, pilot and professional mischief maker. Mac didn’t precisely have a femme fatale like Fiona, but I guess there’s Penny Parker (played by a young Terri Hatcher). Mac had the Phoenix Foundation, Michael has Management. Both love to do voice overs to explain how they are turning some break fluid and a bottle of rock salt into a fire-bomb.
The only real difference is that MacGyver was always trotting across the globe, and often had a proto-environmental message. Burn Notice is set in and around Miami. This leads to more shots of half-naked women in bikinis, so I will not begrudge the choice. Additionally, Burn Notice’s costume designer has apparently never heard of the brassiere, as none of the women on the show wear them and it’s QUITE obvious. (Even with Sharon Gless…oh god there’s no eye bleach strong enough to wipe away the image of her high-beams peeking out at you.)
In conclusion, locations aside, the two shows share a very similar vibe. If you’ve never given Burn Notice a chance and you’re a fan of good old MacGyver, it’s definitely worth checking out.