Cable networks continue to push ahead of the network competition, with both pay and basic cable networks continuing to find success with shows like "Burn Notice", "True Blood" and more. "Notice" is a newer series for USA and stars Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen, a former CIA Operative who received his "Burn Notice" in season one - the notice meaning that he'd suddenly and inexplicably been blacklisted from the agency.
As a result of getting "Notice"'d, Michael gets left out in the cold, with little in the way of resources and no knowledge of who slammed the door on his career. Trying his best to start over in Miami, Michael finds help in the form of spy Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell), ex-IRA member and ex-girlfriend Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar). With little other choice, Michael tries to start over, taking on random jobs in order to bring in money while trying to uncover more about the reason his life was turned upside down - even as he learns more, it's not long before another twist sends Michael into another spiral as he never quite seems to have solid footing.
Early in the fourth season, Michael finds himself in the presence of Vaughn (Robert Wisdom), a mysterious new handler who tries to lure Michael back to the organization in an attempt to have him help track down a terrorist mastermind. However, it's not long into the operation before he burns another agent, Jessie (Coby Bell), who comes to work with Michael - only he doesn't know who burned him. Bell's character makes a pretty good fit in the cast and his character's search for answers layers on top of the season's story arc nicely. The season is also wrapped up superbly, making for an excellent intro for the fifth season.
The fifth season picks up where the fourth left off, with Michael back in Washington DC, working with the CIA, lead by Raines (Dylan Baker) and Max (Grant Show). Michael has been working with the CIA (his burn notice has not been lifted, but he is now a "civilian CIA asset") in order to take down those who burned him. With the resources of the CIA behind him, he takes villains down one-by-one, with one clue leading to another and another leading to another city. The last suspect, however, resists capture.
For a while, it seems as if Michael has gone back to something resembling normal, joined again by his friends. Michael even starts to feel as if the finish line is starting to get close and he can finally move on from the search he's been on for years. Unfortunately, it's never that easy - when a murder happens involving a CIA operative Michael was working with, it looks as if Michael is being framed for it and he has to go on the run again, tracked by a CIA detective (Lauren Stamile). With new information, Michael believes that he's closer than ever to finding the one man who was behind what happened to him. Overall, this is another solid season of the series, with a set of exciting twists and yet another round of the enjoyable combination of solid season-long story arcs and shorter one-off stories, such as "Mind Games", where Michael's brother seeks help with a loan shark and "Besieged", where Michael and Sam try to help rescue a boy from his father's heavily armed compound.
The performances in season five of "Burn Notice" remain sharp, especially Donovan and Campbell who play well off of each other - the series was lucky to score Campbell, who manages to steal scenes without wrecking the balance of the series. The series needs a dose of sharply funny humor, and Campbell manages to be believably serious at times and seriously funny at other times. Gabrielle Anwar gives another fine performance as Fiona, who has great on-screen presence and continues to show stronger chemistry with her co-stars.
While consistent voice over in a series can sometimes distract from the story being told, Michael's informative and defining voice-over adds to the feel and tone of the show. In the fourth season of the show, the series still continues to do an excellent job at creating a strong mood and atmosphere - and does a pretty good job with the action for a series that isn't likely operating with that tremendous a budget. Overall, "Burn Notice" continues to be a real bright spot on cable.
• Season 5
63 5-01 23/Jun/11 Company Man
64 5-02 30/Jun/11 Bloodlines
65 5-03 07/Jul/11 Mind Games
66 5-04 14/Jul/11 No Good Deed
67 5-05 21/Jul/11 Square One
68 5-06 28/Jul/11 Enemy of My Enemy
69 5-07 04/Aug/11 Beseiged
70 5-08 11/Aug/11 Hard Out
71 5-09 18/Aug/11 Eye For An Eye
72 5-10 25/Aug/11 Army of One
73 5-11 01/Sep/11 Better Halves
74 5-12 08/Sep/11 Dead To Rights
75 5-13 03/Nov/11 Damned If You Do
76 5-14 10/Nov/11 Breaking Point
77 5-15 17/Nov/11 Necessary Evil
78 5-16 01/Dec/11 Depth Perception
79 5-17 08/Dec/11 Acceptable Loss
80 5-18 15/Dec/11 Fail Safe
VIDEO: The show is presented in 1.78:1 by 20th Century Fox. Presentation quality is okay, as various issues are seen from time-to-time during all episodes. Sharpness and detail are average, as while the picture looks reasonably crisp in a good deal of the exterior scenes, other scenes look noticeably on the soft side.
Some light edge enhancement is seen during several scenes and some light traces of pixelation are also spotted, although these issues are not terribly distracting here. The series has a gritty, grainy appearance by intent, but the grainy, rough look isn't handled as well as one would desire by the transfer. Colors look reasonably good, as well.
SOUND: "Burn Notice" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The show's audio is also just satisfactory, with unremarkable use of the rear speakers and audio quality that's generally okay - dialogue sounds clear and easily understood, but effects lack bass/fullness.
EXTRAS: We get a commentary track on "Fail Safe" with Jeffrey Donovan, Bruce Campbell and Matt Nix, as well as deleted scenes, a very funny gag reel and "Villains of Burn Notice" featurette. The "Army of One" episode is also presented in an extended version.
Final Thoughts: "Burn Notice" is wonderfully entertaining and is definitely a recommended watch for those who haven't seen the series. This season's set does provide some moderate extras, as well as satisfactory audio/video quality. Highly recommended.