Burn Notice

TV review by
Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media
Burn Notice TV Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Snide spy cracks jokes and shoots kneecaps.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 15 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 21 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The overall tone is positive, in that the good guys tend to beat the bad guys. (That said, there's regular violence involved.) The show also subtly reinforces the importance of teamwork when it comes to solving problems.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is a good guy who fights for the right side, but he's at ease killing and injuring bad guys. Other characters are likable but flawed (ie., a self-professed drunk).


Some strong violence in short bursts, with bad guys frequently getting shot or injured. Occasional offscreen murder.


Sexual tension between characters. Some making out and mild groping. Lots of shots of women's bikini-clad breasts and butts.


Frequent mid-level profanity, like "bulls--t," "ass," "bitchy."


Some flashy goods (it's Miami!). Mention of Mercedes.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character is an admitted "drunk." Dysfunctional mother character smokes cigarettes. References to "E" and drug dealers.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that while this spy drama includes plenty of adult material, its tone is positive overall, and the good guys tend to beat the bad guys. Guns are plentiful and used frequently, and although violence isn't constant, it can be strong -- the main character shoots a drug dealer in the knee (with bloody results), a car is crashed intentionally, a group of guys beat up the main character and break his ribs, a boy punches and kicks bullies, and so on. There's some sexual tension between central characters, but it doesn't go much further than making out and some sexually tinged discussions. One semi-likeable character is a self-professed drunk, and another smokes cigarettes. Mid-level cursing ("bulls--t," "ass") is frequent.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byMiLu3.14 January 24, 2018

Not worth your time

There's got to be something better on TV.
Parent of a 13-year-old Written byAnnefrank December 13, 2015

Great show

Contains great role models messages and violence. For ages 11+
Teen, 13 years old Written byiloverating25 June 23, 2020

For mature kids!

i like the show burn notice me and my dad watch it almost every night. yes some scenes are inappropriate but if you are mature and can handle it your kid will b... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMiriam_basketball April 14, 2017

BEST show

This show is amazing! I was pleasantly surprised that the violence wasn't too bad in this show! And the main character Michael westen always tries to do th... Continue reading

What's the story?

When spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) is inexplicably fired, he decides to find out why. But first he has to use his tactical training to raise enough money to fund his investigation. BURN NOTICE (the term for "pink slip" in spy language) follows Michael through the bikini-speckled world of Miami as he takes on odd spying jobs, collaborates with friends and an ex-girlfriend (Gabrielle Anwar) -- all of whom may not be reliable -- and avoids his hypochondriac mother (Sharon Gless).

Is it any good?

Burn Notice is a lighthearted spy drama that combines thrills with laughs -- Michael's snide sense of humor takes the edge off the occasional bullet to the knee. Part nerd, part soldier, Michael definitely has a soft side, and despite his skill at breaking elbows, he prefers cleverness to brute strength ("Guns are stupid. Better to fight your wars with duct tape. Duct tape makes you smart."). That softer side plays a key part in how Michael approaches the cases he takes on. For example, in one episode he reluctantly takes a low-paying gig because he's desperate for the cash, but once he solves the case -- a rich bad guy is framing a working single dad -- he gives the job all he's got, even teaching the man's 8-year-old son how to battle the bullies harassing him at school.

Overall, Burn Notice is a lot of fun. It's got action, a unique lead character, and fun, MacGyver-esque techno-tricks. Despite some of the adult elements, teens should be able to handle most of the material. And even though Westen is capable of doing violent things, his heart is in the right place.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the media's portrayal of spies and private investigators. What kinds of laws do these characters break in TV shows and movies? Do you think it's OK to break the law if you're fighting for the good guys? Who determines who the "good guys" are, anyway? How can you usually tell who's good and who's bad in shows and movies? Is that very realistic?

TV details

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