There comes a time in any relationship when you have to admit that something is not working. I fear I have reached that point with Burn Notice and yea, it makes me sad.
From the moment it debuted, I have loved Burn Notice. A clever, witty show with guns and spies and beaucoup back story, a complex, conflicted hero (Michael Westen played by Jeffrey Donovan), betrayed by his government, manipulated by a shadow organization, who just happens to have a gun-running ex-girlfriend (Fiona played by Gabrielle Anwar with the worst fake Irish accent evah though it was quickly erased), an excess of yogurt, and Bruce-Freaking-Campbell (Sam Axe).
In a word - awesome.
But lately, as Michael has defeated said shadow organization, proved his innocence, and been reinstated to the CIA, the show has become - dare I say it? - formulaic. An A story-of-the-week where Michael et al help the helpless, a la A-Team and a myriad of other 80s adventure shows, while the B-story is the continuing saga of solving Michael's own professional angst. This summer season, that role is filled by the "Who killed (fellow spy) Max?" non-mystery as it seems painfully obvious to me that Max isn't really dead.
For me, Burn Notice began to wane when our fearless threesome became a foursome and Jesse (Coby Bell) was added to the roster. At first, I thought it an interesting angle for Michael to play as he inadvertently did to Jesse what the shadow organization had done to him: got him burned. I particularly liked it when, secret revealed, Jesse saved Michael's admirable tuckus from the bad guy by shooting Michael - with no small amount of pleasure on Jesse's part.
But I didn't want Jesse to stay and stay he did. Saying I don't like change is a gross understatement, so messing around with a cast I like is a wonky move. But, despite my considerable efforts at the contrary, the world doesn't revolve around me and television showrunners don't consult me before screwing around with the casting status quo. Their loss.
Setting aside my personal quirks, the show now has to find ways to include story lines and character development for five full time cast members (including Michael's mother Madeline played by Sharon Gless) and those of Michael, Fi, and Sam have suffered for it. It doesn't help that an in-the-CIA-fold with healthy relationships with mother and girlfriend Michael is far less interesting than burned, bitter, and ballistic Michael.
And then there's my waning suspension of disbelief. Just how many things does this guy have to blow up in Miami before local law enforcement wises up? The show tried to introduce a police-hunt wrinkle in season two (or was it three?) but it was an epic fail, no small fault due to the miscasting of Moon Bloodgood as the Miami cop on Michael's (enticing) scent.When you have an alpha woman like Fiona, you need a woman who can similarly challenge Michael from the antagonist side and Moon Bloodgood wasn't it. Tricia Helfer, however, worked very well as a previous big bad because a former cylon kicks everyone to the curb.
Also, why is there no traffic? How is it Michael, Fi and Sam can cross the city in minutes without a single traffic light or snarl, never mind the driving hijinks they get up to along the way? And then go and blow more sh*t up without getting arrested?
Horatio Caine would never stand for that crap in his city. His sunglasses alone would have to object.
The best Burn Notice episodes are when Michael and Fiona (and her lips) are balls to the wall in one way or another leaving Chuck Finley (alias for Campbell's Sam Axe) to front a rescue. Like last year's siege at the abandoned hotel or when Fiona was kidnapped to be auctioned off by an Irish terrorist, or even when Sam got nicked by the bad SEALs.
[Let's pause here and touch on Gabrielle Anwar's lips. Look at her in Scent of a Woman. Granted it was 1992 and Gabrielle herself was only 22, but here and in The Three Musketeers a year later, she didn't look like Stephen Tyler had lent her collagen. Now I get an irrevocable impression of fish lips every time I look at her. Very distracting. I'm not saying she's had work done; at 5'3", she weighs about 80 lbs and it may be that, lacking any kind of collagen in her face, her lips merely stand out more. But it's weird.]
Back to Burn Notice. This past week, I actually stopped watching in the middle of the episode. Unheard of! Absurb! Yet true nonetheless. Why? Because I was bored, which, to me, is death knell.
Yet it makes me sad to say goodbye. I hold on for too long and wind up in this love/hate situation where I don't like what it's become but stay for what it once was. Shows like this that fire on all cylinders right out of the gate are few and far between. Television already serves the least common denominator of audience. Sustaining a show that raises the bar can't be an easy task. But Burn Notice would have been better served by ending once Michael had succeeded in his original mission to clear his name. Then we could have imagined him and Fi and Sam kicking around Miami, drinking mojitoes, hanging out in Madeline's garage, and looking out for the little guy in this big, bad world.
My dear Burn Notice. It's not me, it's you. I hope we can still be friends.