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HTF DVD REVIEW: Burn Notice Season One

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#1 of 8 Cameron Yee

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Posted June 06 2008 - 12:51 AM

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Release Date: June 17, 2008
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Packaging/Materials: Double-disc slim cases in a cardstock slipcase
Year: 2007
Rating: NA
Running Time: 8h52m
Video: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Closed Captioning: English
MSRP: $49.98

The Series: 4/5
Intelligence operative Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) is in the middle of a job when he is unceremoniously fired. Someone issued a "burn notice" on him, which essentially strips him of his reliability and credibility as a spy. And as you'd expect, losing your job in espionage means a lot more than just being unemployed. With all the things Westen knows, he's a security risk for his former employer, so he's dumped and stranded in his hometown of Miami without a penny to his name. And without the support and protection of an agency, it's open season for anyone he's managed to piss off over the years (which is apparently a lot of people). Why he wasn't simply killed is the big question, though it becomes increasingly clear that whoever issued the burn notice wants him alive to see the end game. In the meantime, there seem to be countless, everyday people who need his special skills. By helping them, he might even be helping himself.

Airing on the USA Network - and scheduled to start its second season July 10 - "Burn Notice" is one part "Grosse Pointe Blank" and one part any-private-detective-series-you-ever-found-reasonably-entertaining. Jeffrey Donavan is suitably smooth and likeable as Westen, but it's really the supporting cast that makes the show. There's Bruce Campbell as Sam, the lovable-but-smarmy spy buddy; Gabrielle Anwar as Fiona, the aggressive, former-IRA ex-girlfriend; and Sharon Gless as Madeline, the high-maintenance, but well-meaning, mother. The episodes generally work best when the full ensemble is in play, like the one where Westen helps Madeline's neighbor deal with some con artists. Westen's remedies in subsequent episodes might be a little too convenient or simple, but it's easy to overlook since the show never takes itself too seriously. With the first season DVD coming out nearly a month before the second season premiere, the uninitiated should have plenty of time to get caught up. USA will probably run it's usual re-run marathon, but once you start watching you'll more than likely want to add the series to your collection. All-in-all, "Burn Notice" is good television and particularly perfect for the summer hiatus - there's enough meat to the series to fill the void but lighthearted enough to suit the season.

The DVD set includes all 11 episodes from the first season, spread over four discs.


Video Quality: 3/5
The series is framed at 1.78:1 and generally free of physical defects. Colors and flesh tones skew heavily toward the warm and saturated, accentuating the image and style of its setting. But at the same time, the production forgoes some of that Miami sheen by going with a grainy aesthetic. While there doesn't seem to be any attempt to remove the grain, there is ever-present mosquito noise in the image. The severity of the swarm seems to decrease as the series progresses, but if you look for it, it's not hard to find. Sharpness is also variable, though the lack of definition is sometimes intentional as the female cast members often get the soft focus treatment in their close ups. Black levels are generally solid, though with the amping of the color, blacks can look a bit crushed. Overall it's an adequate transfer, but could stand some improvement in a few major areas.


Audio Quality: 3/5
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix is a straightforward affair. The show's music - of which there is plenty, ranging from Cuban jazz to hip hop - makes up most of the front and surround channel activity; directional sound effects are few and far between. Explosions push a bit into LFE territory, but there's nothing especially seat shaking. On the whole, there's nothing particularly remarkable about the track, but it doesn't make any particular missteps either, with dialog that is consistently clear and intelligible.


Special Features: 4/5

Audio Commentaries: Taking a slightly different approach to the well-traveled audio commentary feature, commentary from creator Matt Nix and the cast is available for every episode but scene-specific in a series of clips accessed outside of the episodes. The strategy - a result of wanting to maximize schedules, I imagine - generally works. You get pre-selected, noteworthy scenes and resulting commentary that is focused on the reasons. You'll probably find yourself selecting the clips you enjoyed yourself first, which ultimately creates a more interactive experience knowing there is some shared appreciation going on.

Character Montage (1m30s): All the ways the characters have called each other by name (or mentioned their refreshments of choice). It's actually funnier than it sounds.

"Girls Gone Burn Notice" Montage (2m20s): A peek at the show's bikini-clad extras.

Action Montage (2m42s): Highlights of the show's action sequences.

Gag Reel (3m09s) Consists mostly of Bruce Campbell's various ad-libs, with few actual goofs.

Audition Footage (9m49s): Donovan's and Anwar's casting tapes.

Saving Grace TV Show Music Video (3m04s): Theme song for the Holly Hunter series, performed by Everlast.


Recap

The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 3/5
Audio Quality: 3/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5

Cable series with an entertaining balance of humor and gravitas gets acceptable video and audio transfers and a good special features package. Recommended.
One thing leads to another at cameronyee.com

#2 of 8 Matt Hough

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Posted June 06 2008 - 02:02 AM

I found the first season of BURN NOTICE slick, smart, and extremely entertaining. Jeffrey Donovan had charisma to burn, and Bruce Campbell was a terrific sidekick. I'll look forward eagerly to owning this set.

#3 of 8 ChrisCook

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Posted June 06 2008 - 04:14 AM

Cameron, are the "My name is Michael Westen..." recaps on there? Thanks for the review.

#4 of 8 Cameron Yee

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Posted June 06 2008 - 04:49 AM

Quote:
Cameron, are the "My name is Michael Westen..." recaps on there? Thanks for the review.
Yes they are.
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#5 of 8 Doug Wallen

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Posted June 06 2008 - 07:05 AM

Really looking forward to this set as well as the new season.

Doug
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#6 of 8 Aryn Leroux

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Posted June 07 2008 - 09:36 AM

This is a show i have been recommending to anyone that loves 80's TV. This show was made with the love of the 80's in mind and could have easily fit right in back then. It is rare that a fun show like this comes around today. I highly recommend this show!!! Thanks for the review!

#7 of 8 JoeyCarr

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Posted June 07 2008 - 05:47 PM

I'm kind of sad not to see FULL Bruce Campbell commentaries Posted Image

#8 of 8 ChrisCook

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Posted June 16 2008 - 02:47 PM

Check out one of the scene selected commentaries in this video on Amazon.com.

Amazon.com: Burn Notice - Season One: Jeffrey Donovan, Sharon Gless, Bruce Campbell: Movies & TV





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