A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
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.
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?