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Burn Notice: Tune In, Zone Out

Jet lag and TiVo go together so well it’s a wonder the DVR company hasn’t used it as a selling point. No more channel flipping through endless infomercials! Clear out those backlogged episodes in that ideal state of temporal strandedness! Just back from a trip overseas, my wife and I have waded through the Paris Hilton–Larry King interview — the sleepless watching the clueless — plus multiple installments of crappy reality television (Paula Abdul whining, Gordon Ramsay screaming, Mo’Nique tut-tutting), and in my case a bit of catch-up with Wimbledon coverage. The only scripted show we watched was the premiere of USA Network’s new tongue-in-cheek spy series Burn Notice, about a Bond-like covert op (Jeffrey Donovan) abruptly, mysteriously cut off by his bosses and relegated to private-eye work in Miami, and it seemed a perfect eyeball baby sitter as well. It’s got a low-hum basic-cable charm, fueled by personality, breezy cloak-and-dagger ingenuity and smart-ass dialogue rather than a flashy, budget-driven broadcast network complex. In fact, Donovan’s nicely pitched action-comedy hero Michael Weston — handsome, smart, neurotic, tough, funny, sensitive — is closer to the kind of granitelike episodic stalwart the big three used to have plenty of room for in their lineup before epic ensembles and convolutedly interweaving storylines took over. Michael Weston is Jim Rockford and MacGyver filtered through Carl Hiassen. Entertaining, in other words. Fun to watch. It’s the kind of happily untaxing series that makes you wonder if television has sometimes forgotten how to keep you tuned in even when you’re zoned out.


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