Review by leonard Norwitz
Theatrical: Fox Television Studios for USA Network
Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Runtime: 684 min
Size: 50 GB
Case: Standard Blu-ray case, w/ flippage, complete on 3
Release date: June 16th, 2009
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Video codec: AVC @ 17 Mbps
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English, Spanish & French
• Audio Commentaries on 3 episodes by cast & crew
• Featurette: NIXin' it Up (13:57)
• Featurette: Boom Notice – in SD (8:38)
• 7 Deleted Scenes
• Gag Reel (10:22)
Only a few minutes into this series, I get this déjà-vu
feeling. Where have I seen this before? Aha! It’s not the
content so much as the style, reminiscent of Stephen J.
Cannell’s The Rockford Files and Wiseguy. Rockford, a show
synonymous with James Garner, was character-driven in
hour-long self-contained formulaic episodes. Wiseguy less
so, as it added a seasonal arc about how Ken Wahl’s
character, Vinnie Terranova, is groomed to be accepted into
the underworld. In both cases, the writing is what set them
apart from everything else on TV at the time – that and the
casting of the principals. When we see Bruce Campbell, King
of B-pictures, in the all-important second banana position
on the present instance, we can be comfortable that Burn
Notice doesn’t have Cannellian aspirations.
The set-up is that Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan, whom I
liked much better on Touching Evil and as the Police captain
in Clint Eastwood’s Changeling) wasn’t so much fired from
his job as spy for the government as he was "burned" – by
persons and forces unknown – left out in the cold. All is
not lost, since there is one group, who remains a mystery
who takes advantage of the situation by hiring Westen out
for odd and dangerous jobs. Westen wants to know who burned
him - we assume this will take as long as he is permitted to
remain on the air. In any case, he has the help of a friend
and FBI informant, Sam Axe, (Campbell) and a ”trigger-happy”
semi-ex-girlfriend (Gabrielle Anwar). In most of the
episodes, Westen finds himself helping some innocent third
party unravel themselves from the clutches of his new
handler, or whomever, in hit and miss efforts to get him
closer to learning the identity of thems that burned him.
One–armed, we assume.
If only the writing wasn’t so obviously self-conscious. If
only Donovan’s voiceover didn’t seem so bored with the whole
thing – his character might be half asleep, but I’m not. .
.though I do like his primers on how to be a spy. And what’s
with the zoom cha-cha step every other time the camera does
aerial spins around Miami! – Is this the producer’s way of
making sure we don’t confuse this series with Dexter, or
CSI: Miami, or Miami Vice? I don’t think he need worry on
that score. Season One was fresher. Maybe that was all the
show had in it.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence
compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale.
The second number places this image along the full range of
DVDs, including SD 480i.
This is one of those instances where, even if the result on
Blu-ray is identical to the source, even if it as good – or
better - than its network incarnation, the image is so
grainy as to make the experience of watching it on a large
display make you wonder who approved this mess for release.
This is not what high definition was born for. My player
tells me that the resolution is 1080p. I can see that bit
rates are in the upper teens. But in fact I’ve seen more
highly resolved images on DVD – often. I take it that the
image is the result of post-processing to achieve a certain
kind of artistic effect – one that gives the show its unique
visual identity. Perhaps it works just fine on smaller
displays, but on a large screen the grain is so large it
looks like I’m looking through beach sand. Had enough! No?
The picture is soft, flat and lifeless. Shadow detail is
just black. Yuk!
Audio & Music:
The audio fares better, but it's far from what we have
gotten used to with shows like Lost and True Blood. The
dialogue and music is clear enough, but despite the DTS
HD-MA it all sounds like, well, The Rockford Files. Dynamics
are crushed, though every once in a while there is a
disproportionate kablam or other comic book noise and very
little in the way of immersive effects.
After what must be the funniest promo piece on Blu-ray this
year – an ad for "Burn Notice Season 2 on DVD," presented in
SD no less, and repeated on each of the three discs – Fox
gets down to business. I’m not a fan of hidden menus, and
this Blu-ray hides everything, even the fact that there is
an episode submenu.
Each disc offers an audio commentary for one of its
episodes, making three such roundtablers in all. So if you
want to know more about the whys and wherefores about the
show this, is the place to go. “NIXin’ it up” is a 14-minute
featurette that introduces us to Matt Nix, the creator,
writer and exec producer of Burn Notice. Boom Notice is a
little spoof on the series featuring Fred the boom operator.
This just didn’t work for me on any level. I gather that my
reaction to the series is very out of the mainstream, Burn
Notice being the "No. 1 basic cable network series among the
cherised (sic) 18-49 demo" (ref: Sun Sentinal) – but I will
admit to my maybe being influenced by an unwatchable image.
June 29th, 2009