Ken Tucker
August 31, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

”Burn Notice”’s detective influences

It’s no surprise that USA’s Burn Notice racks up solid cable ratings on Thursdays at 10 p.m. — it’s a witty, flashy update of a genre now rare yet dear to so many of us: the hour-long action-adventure series. Jeffrey Donovan’s Michael Westen is a covert-op government agent who’s been ”burned” — cut loose for reasons he tries to determine each week. In the meantime, he works as a private eye. Creator Matt Nix taps into our memories of ’80s shows like The Equalizer, Magnum, P.I., Matt Houston, and Miami Vice to give us the pleasures of good plotting — cases and heads to be cracked — along with sarcastic, hard-boiled humor. I love Westen’s voice-over commentary on the ins and outs of the spy trade, and Burn‘s got a MacGyver vibe going: all those homemade weapons Michael crafts from items bought at the hardware store. Donovan is a unique mix of buff and bluff. His buddy, played by cult fave Bruce Campbell, is a shady coward; his putative love interest (Gabrielle Anwar) is a schizy sweet ‘n’ sour gal who pulls guns and kicks baddies while pining for Michael’s heart. She’s macking on the wrong guy: Burn‘s Michael is an homage to a cherished ’80s icon — like Magnum and Vice‘s Crockett, he’s a jaded hero with a heart of tin.

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