by pat howard

SECOND LOOKS | “Burn Notice,” “L&O: Criminal Intent”

In Uncategorized on June 15, 2009 at 3:33 pm

As a viewer, I have a bad habit of getting set in my ways. I’ll stick with shows well beyond the point of watchability merely out of sentiment or habit. And shows that I sample and dismiss rarely get another opportunity to impress me. I realize these blind spots and, as such, am taking a second look at two series I previously summarily dismissed.

Burn Notice, now in its third season on USA, follows burned spy Michael Westen and his motley band of friends, family, and colleagues as they blow things up and help the desperate in Miami. USA has carved quite a niche for itself with character-driven drama, and I initially dismissed Burn Notice wholesale on the basis of Jeffrey Donovan’s smarmy unlikability. Critical response to the second season was overwhelmingly positive, so I took a chance and sampled three recent episodes. I can’t say whether it’s the show itself or my reception of it that’s changed. Either way, this is an engaging, often wryly amusing hour. Cable’s great about plugging holes around broadcast network seasons, and this secret agent caper is a fun summer diversion, less pensive and estrogeny than my favorite USA offering, In Plain Sight. I’m not saying I’m ready to season pass Notice just yet, but I will no longer flip past it when it’s on.

As for Law & Order: Criminal Intent…well, in this case, my heart has not grown fonder. I remain resistant to D’Onofrio entirely. But I did recently catch a Noth episode and a Goldblum episode, and here are my thoughts. While not as awful as I had remembered, CI continues to besmirch the franchise. Original Law & Order is sort of grandfathered in at this point, and SVU is a dime-store disaster from which I cannot look away. But CI is all dark and broody, but never in the same direction twice. The Dick Wolf franchise has been using increasingly convoluted plots as a crutch for at least a few seasons now, but I remain oblivious to whatever is supposed to be happening here. Noth is old hat as Logan, and could probably play the part just as well in his sleep. Goldblum does a servicable job as well, and Eric Bogosian’s character seems a shoo-in for L&O captains hall of fame. But I don’t feel like I get any kind of return on my hour with this one…still, eight seasons later.

Got a show you think deserves a second look? Email me: thetvmanifesto AT gmail DOT com.

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