Written by: Caballero Oscuro
Even though Burn Notice borrows heavily from numerous past concepts, it still manages to feel like a fresh new idea. Anchored by the adventures of a blacklisted spy helping average citizens in trouble, the show heaps on liberal amounts of influence by the likes of MacGyver, The Rockford Files, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and the Bourne movies. Its derivative nature doesn’t detract from its appeal, in fact it gives the show a classic feel that bodes well for graceful aging.
A spy named Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) is on a mission overseas when he discovers that he’s been the victim of a “burn notice” by his employers, effectively turning him into a shadowy pariah with no career, no access to his bank accounts, and no hope of appeal. He’s dumped off in Miami and left to fend for himself, leading him to set up shop as a private investigator/fixer who helps whatever people in need cross his path. Luckily, he has a support network in Miami , most notably sexy fellow ex-spy Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) and retired company man Sam (Bruce Campbell), as well as his cantankerous mother (Sharon Gless) and occasionally his brother.
Fiona is basically his equal in spy skills and also a former lover, setting them up as the dueling, canoodling Mr. and Mrs. Smith of the show as they work to reconcile their relationship. Sam offers the comic relief (exceptionally well thanks to Campbell ), while mama Westen fluctuates between being a nagging, embarrassing parent and a sympathetic character yearning for a closer relationship with her emotionally distant son.
While the principal story is Michael’s search for answers about who burned him and why, each episode functions fully as a standalone story due to the “client of the week” nature of Michael’s adventures. This leaves the series wide open for new viewers to jump in at any time without fear of being completely shut out of a dense narrative, and also gives it a classic Rockford Files feel (unconventional P.I. helps a new client each episode and breaks rules and heads along the way).