USA’s summer spy show Burn Notice wrapped up its premiere season last week, and I have to say, it was a pretty stellar season. Burn Notice started out as an agreeable way to pass an hour, aided immeasurably by Bruce Campbell in a supporting role, Miami eye candy (of the scenic and bikini-clad varieties), and threat-of-the-week plots that resolved themselves in an hour and didn’t require the viewer to have seen everything that had come before to know what was going on. All the necessary ingredients for escapist summer fun. But as it ran its course, Burn Notice revealed itself to be more than just the sum of its very appealing parts. The fact that it’s the first episodic spy series in a long while that doesn’t dangle dozens and dozens of ongoing plot threads for the viewer to keep track of definitely helps. It’s not 24 or Alias, wrapped up in its own dense and impenetrable continuity. But unlike the mighty Eighties action hours it emulates so well (Magnum P.I., The Equalizer, Remington Steele, etc.), it does have an ongoing storyline, and in that paradox lies its genius. Creator Matt Nix managed to sustain the first season with a single serial aspect, the burning question of who "burned" ex-spy Michael Weston. This plot was doled out in manageable, bite-size nuggets all season long. In each episode, Michael got another small piece of the puzzle that got him closer to discovering the truth, but the pieces were so small that it didn’t matter if a viewer missed one or had never even seen another episode. Yet they were big enough to keep record audiences (for USA) tuning in week after week, eager for the next piece, but probably more eager to spend some time with a group of likeable characters.
As for Nix, he seemed to come out of nowhere. But a recent LA Times profile dispelled that notion: "After more than eight years writing feature scripts that may have sold but were rarely produced, Matt Nix learned this summer that it’s true what they say about Hollywood: It takes 10 years t to be an overnight success." The article goes on to reveal that he’s 36, and not 20 (which is about how old he looks), so frustrated screenwriters can stop hating him!