The Saint and the Burn Notice

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Saint and the Burn Notice

If you haven't seen the new TV show, Burn Notice, on USA Networks, you should take a first look. It is billed as an Action-Comedy and is very much like in the Saint in many ways. The show premiered on Thursday, June 28, and they've shown three episodes in the first season series so far.

Simon Templar vs. Michael Westen
Jeffrey Donovan stars as an ex-CIA agent named Michael Westen, who like Simon Templar, is a man of strong moral beliefs working outside the law. Using his Special Ops training, whatever tools are at hand, and his sardonic humor, Michael takes on the larger mission of finding out why he got fired from the CIA and helps out a number of people along the way.
Michael Westen
Michael is living every spy's worst nightmare. When a spy gets fired, he doesn't get a call from human resources and a gold watch. In Michael's case, they jeopardize his life, freeze his bank accounts, dump him in Miami, and flag him on every government list known to man. They can't take away his skills or what's in his head, so they take away his assets and his resources to make sure he can never work again. They burn him.

Now Michael has a much different mission: he must find out who issued his burn notice and why he was blacklisted so that he can put his life back together. Meanwhile, he has to fend off a suddenly hostile world of old foes gunning for him. In order to survive in Miami and fund his own personal investigation, Michael enlists the help of the only two "friends" he has: Fiona Glenanne an ex-IRA operative who also happens to be an ex-girlfriend and Sam Axe a washed-out military intelligence contact whom the feds have keeping an eye on Michael.
Patricia Holm, meet Fiona Glenanne
Like The Saint's Patricia Holm, Westen has a female counterpart that is his equal with somewhat of a romantic history between them. Leslie Charteris wrote the character of Patricia as a strong female character who could jump in with both feet and do just about everything Simon Templar could do. In Burn Notice, that character is named Fiona Glenanne, played by Gabrielle Anwar. Glenanne is also like Holm in that she doesn't sit home waiting for things to happen; she does what she wants and doesn't put up with anything that she doesn't like.
Fiona Glenanne
Fiona Glenanne may look like she just stepped out of a fashion magazine but she's a force to be reckoned with. She was affiliated with the IRA for 14 years, but ran afoul of her old organization because she didn't like being told what to do. She has since gone out on her own, picking up odd jobs and using her skills in explosives, lock picking, tracking, weapons, and hand-to-hand combat to make a living.
Fiona is definitely a shoot first and asks questions later kind of gal. Her fearless nature is both enticing and dangerous, as she is capable of making things go "boom" very quickly. When Michael is dumped, battered and unconscious, in Miami, Fiona is called since she is still listed as his emergency contact. They were once romantically involved but that ended years before when Michael left her without an explanation. Fiona isn't used to being rejected and the end of their relationship left her with a bruised ego.

She decides to stay in Miami to help Michael, but her reasons aren't all work related. For a woman who considers a good head-butt to be foreplay, seducing men is second nature. Although Michael's reluctant to re-kindle a very complicated relationship, Fiona is a stubborn master strategist and won't stop till she gets her way.
Talking Directly to the Audience
The Saint with Roger Moore was one of the first dramatic shows where the actor would talk to the camera, explaining what was going and and letting the audience in on a little inside information. Burn Notice does this in very much the humorous manner of the Saint. Just as Westen is about to be hit by a car, the scene freezes, and Westen explains something to the effect of, "if you're going to get hit by a car, there are two ways to avoid getting hurt. The first is to have the car miss you, and if that isn't an option, then jump onto the hood sideways and try to roll over the top of the car." This is very much like the way Leslie Charteris used to have Simon Templar explain things in the books: as The Saint was hitting someone over the head with a chair he would cast aside a comment similar to, "when hitting a bad guy over the head with a chair, one first needs to acquire a good solid chair."

Spy Hints
The action stops from time to time, and Westen gives us, the audience, some Spy Tips. There are also Spy Tips on the Burn Notice website. This is remensicent of the tips sections of The Roger Moore Adventure Book, The Saint Annuals, and on the backs of many of the Swedish 'Helgonet' comic books.

Teal Baiting
One of the sources of humor in the Saint books was Simon Templar's relationship with the bumbling Scotland Yard Inspector Teal. Leslie Charteris had The Saint refer to is as 'Teal-Baiting' and it was always a lot of fun. In Burn Notice, Michael Westen has a similar foil in the person of Sam Axe, played by Bruce Campbell.
Sam Axe
Handsome with a good-natured grin, Sam Axe is a former Navy Seal, Military Intel Operative, and all-around Cold Warrior. In his prime he was point man on an array of armed conflicts the world over. He worked with Michael many times during those heady days. When Michael reconnects with him in Miami, Sam has embraced his post-espionage days by letting loose. Once, he loved the threadbare world of secret surveillance in the communist bloc, or forward recon in the touch-and-go Middle East.

Now, he has moved on to mojitos, Sugar Mommas and bikini watching in the bars and on the sands of South Beach. He's reliable and consistent, in the way that you can count on a former spy to dig up solid intel and execute missions with stealthy aplomb. Despite his predilection for rich divorcées and cocktails, he is an asset to Michael, even when he becomes an informant for the FBI. Though the Feds have Sam keeping an eye on Michael, he needs Sam's friendship, partnership, and expertise, now more than ever.
The Big Con: Saving The Damsel In Distress
One of great things about The Saint is that he uses many tricks of the trade to con the bad guys and save the damsel in distress. In the most recent episode of Burn Notice, Westen finds himself trying to protect a mother and her daughter from a drug dealer who wants to kill them before they testify. The police won't help, and that is where Westen steps in. He uses a number of clever devices and tactics that the police could never use, and thus saves that day. The Saint would be proud.

The Car
Of course, what would an action show be without a car. Westen's vintage black Dodge Charger wasn't introduced until the third episodes where it has been sitting in a garage ever since his father died. The Charger isn't exactly the picture of European finesse of The Saint's Volvo, but it does have a certain retro throw-back feel being a vintage car from the 1970s.

Burn Notice is a clever show that lives up to its Action-Comedy moniker. The show has great humor, and a hero who can deal with the darker side of life with aplomb, wits, and style. In short, if you are looking for a intelligent show that has a Saint-like hero who works outside the law with both his brain and his brawn, then Burn Notice is for you.


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2 comments for The Saint and the Burn Notice


Blogger Bill Krzastek said...

Sounds like a cross between "The Saint" and another great ITC seriers "Man in a Suitcase" where the hero, McGill, is framed and fired by the CIA. I'll check it out. Anything with Bruce "Brisco County" Campbell is a plus!

Sunday, August 12, 2007  
Blogger Dan Bodenheimer said...

Burn Notice is now available on DVD. Buy it today from Amazon.com

Tuesday, June 17, 2008  

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