Want personalized picks that fit your family?

Set preferences to see our top age-appropriate picks for your kids.

Get age-based picks

Burn Notice

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

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 15 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 20 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKrbbup August 5, 2010

Awesome Show, but Not for Young Teens

My family started watching this show since the first episode and we were hooked instantly!! It is the best out there as far as action/drama is concerned. Mich... Continue reading
Written byAnonymous February 2, 2011
Teen, 15 years old Written byTotally28 February 6, 2016

Burn Notice: A Phenomenal Ride

Burn Notice is an excellent show for teens. If your kids love action-adventure books like Alex Rider and Maximum Ride, this is the show to watch. I found myself... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 22, 2013

Good role model

Michel Weston is an amazing spy who shows that it is good to help people in need. He only shot someone in the kneecap in the first or second episode, and it is... 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

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate