Looking for something new and different on TV? It's not

Burn Notice.

Looking for some summertime fun? It is Burn Notice, premiering at 10 p.m. tomorrow on cable's USA.

It combines the lively silliness from scores of shows that have gone before: The Rockford Files, MacGyver, Moonlighting, The Equalizer, Miami Vice, even Everybody Loves Raymond. Yeah, that's only six, but it's summer, and nobody should expect extensive research on a piece of fluff like this.

Do-it-yourselfers can add all the shows that used a little behind-the-scenes narration, and on-screen captions to identify new characters, and ongoing mysteries, and spry escapades where lots of people get hurt but nobody dies, and a sharp pro aiding the downtrodden, and cuts to girls in bikinis, and car chases, and colorful low- and high-life personalities who popped up all the time.

Tomorrow, there's Sugar, the drug dealer, and Walter, the art dealer, and Vince, the not-so-competent security guy. But after all, who can be competent against the special-ops, street-savvy dynamo who is Michael Western?

"Vince is calling all his Army buddies trying to figure out who you are," says the drunken buddy of the special-ops, street-savvy dynamo.

"Good luck with that," he replies. "I don't even know."

Western has been in Covert City for, what, 20 years? But now he's on his own, victim of a "burn notice," which, apparently, is a pink slip for spies. Western receives his in the middle of million-dollar negotiations with Boris, the wannabe Nigerian warlord.

After neutralizing Boris' associates in a bathroom brawl (the hard surfaces spare the small bones in a fighter's hands, he explains), Western winds up back home in Miami, where, in addition to the previously mentioned drinker, he has one friend.

It's his ex-girlfriend, Fiona, an extremely attractive veteran of the IRA, played by the extremely attractive Gabrielle Anwar (Princess Margaret in The Tudors, Al Pacino's dance partner in Scent of a Woman - hoo-hah!).

Western's mother, a hypochondriacal kvetch, also lives there, and covert and spy-o-lacious as he is, the man cannot avoid her. Sharon Gless is a hoot as his maternal nemesis.

Under the rules of the show, Western must stay in Miami, constantly trailed by various government agents with low-rent haircuts and haberdashery, except when he gives them the slip, always in innovative ways. ("Don't ever drive fast," he instructs.)

Nobody, including him, knows where the rules come from, but until he finds out, he must make his way doing wiseguy, private-eye-style capers for the little guy.

Jeffrey Donovan, piercing glance, lithe body, plays Western, who's basically on screen the whole time, so he'd better be piercing and lithe. He was the creepy sexhound Vance in Hitch, but nowadays, he's going solo, fending off Fiona's advances while using her expertise, along with his special skills in the fabrication of ingenious gadgets and scenarios, to help foil the evildoers.

In tomorrow's debut, he impresses Walter with his knowledge of the Camden Town Group of Post-Impressionists. Walter has none of those particular artists in stock, but, he says conspiratorially, "I do have some Greco-Roman nude wrestling statues you might like to take a look at."

No such luck, Walter, but at least you come out better than Sugar the drug dealer, who suffers a painful fate abetted by the ever-clever Western's use of duct tape.

"Guns make you stupid," Western says. "Better to fight your wars with duct tape. Duct tape makes you smart."

MacGyver would be proud.

Jonathan Storm |


Burn Notice

Debuts tomorrow night at 10 on USA

To comment on this article, go to: http://go.philly.com/askstorm. Contact television critic Jonathan Storm privately at 215-854-5618 or jstorm@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go. philly.com/jonathanstorm.