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Ruminating on Burn Notice

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Last week, as you may recall, I promised to discuss Burn Notice this week. Well, I didn't so much promise that I'd discuss it so much as I stated that it was a definite possibility, that it was something that I was, without a doubt, considering. Well, I've considered it, and… let's discuss.

For those of you who don't know, and I can't imagine who you are, Burn Notice is USA's take on the spy story. It focuses on Michael Westen, a one-time spy who was "burned." That means that someone told on him, getting him booted from the business, having his assets frozen, and pretty much just wreaking all sorts of havoc in his life. His goal? Figure out who got him kicked out of the spy business and why.

The best part of the whole thing? As I said last week, it's the voiceover. It's not always brilliant, but it's more wry and witty than what that dead lady over on ABC on Sunday nights tends to spew. Yes, I like that lady on ABC on Sunday nights, but she's no Michael Westen. He spends so much time telling us the right and wrong way to go about things, how the spies do it, how to improvise, and it's all done very tongue in cheek. Burn Notice is a spy drama, but it's also a parody of a spy drama. It's as smart as it is because it recognizes what came before it and plays off of it.

I feel as though, more and more, television series aren't doing straight stories anymore. It may be more true on cable than broadcast, and it's almost certainly true about all of USA's original series. I'm not complaining about it, I love both Psych and Monk which are spins on detective stories, I just wonder what the next incarnation is. Eventually will things move to fitting more into classical genre categories or will there be a spin on the spin? I don't quite know how that would work, what the show would look like; if I did I'd probably be rich, but I tend to think that the spin on the spin is far more likely.

Back to the show at hand, though. What I don't understand about Burn Notice is the yogurt. In every episode, there's yogurt. Michael eats yogurt, his not-a-girlfriend Fiona eats yogurt, his buddy Sam talks about eating yogurt. Maybe I just missed the moment where they explained it all, but I don't think so. All I know is that there's always yogurt. I hear that Psych always has a pineapple in it, maybe all the USA original series do a similar thing.

There is one huge fear I have for the series, it's a fear that crops up all too often for me with shows that I enjoy. I worry that the producers don't know the endgame. What if the producers don't have an answer for why Michael was burned? What if they're making it up as they go along? It's absolutely possible to create a series like this and have it be wonderful and not have the ending figured out… it's just more difficult. It's too easy to lose your credibility by coming up with some ridiculous machinations and thereby lose the audience if you don't know where you're going.

Too many shows have gone down that route, and I'd rather not see it happen to Burn Notice too. Some might argue that for Burn Notice to go down that route would be the perfect way for this type of spin on the spy tale to end, or not end as it were. That actually makes some sense, but I'd still rather not see it happen.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.