TV Review: USA Launches ‘Suits,’ Reignites ‘Burn Notice’

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CHICAGO – While AMC, FX, and even TNT have been pushing forward in the world of basic cable programming, the very-successful USA network feels like it has been treading water. Their Tuesday night hits (“White Collar,” “Covert Affairs”) have begun their summer seasons without much fanfare and now we have the first night of a new Thursday pairing — the rookie “Suits” and the veteran “Burn Notice.” Is this a more enticing duo or does USA continue to struggle? Sadly, this is not the pair to save the day at USA. Television Rating: 3.0/5.0
Television Rating: 3.0/5.0

“Burn Notice”

The night starts with the beloved “Burn Notice,” a show that I’ve liked in the past and even thought had the potential to really become something special after season two but that has only grown more frustrating as the years have gone by. The season premiere this summer is particularly disappointing as it feels like the writers have lost touch with what works about the program. There are still elements that work here but they’re just not being put together in the way they used to be. Something’s not clicking.

Burn Notice
Burn Notice
Photo credit: USA

It’s not through lack of effort by the talented cast. Jeffrey Donovan is still giving his all as Michael Westen and his character has grown increasingly complex as Michael’s now back in the fold as a superspy, trying to get deeper into the heart of the mystery as to why he was burned so long ago. While Michael tries to take apart the agency from within, Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) and Sam (Bruce Campbell) continue to provide support while his mother (Emmy nominee Sharon Gless) occasionally offers maternal advice.

The season premiere of “Burn Notice” is very action-heavy, playing more like a traditional spy/action series and Matt Nix’s program was never strong on action. The show works off the chemistry of its stars and its cool locations, not as another “Jason Bourne for TV.” We loved “Burn Notice” because it was a “different” spy show not because it was just another spy show and the season premiere gives the feeling of a show that’s losing that quirky identity.

“Burn Notice” has been a popular summer diversion by providing escapism in the warmer months. We got to know and love Michael, Fiona, and Sam and we looked forward to taking the trip to Miami. Watching these three become elements in just another action show is honestly depressing. There’s a sense of fun and identity that’s missing. Hopefully they can find it again before it’s too late.

If you want to see how we got here, check out the recently-released season four DVD of “Burn Notice.” From Fox, the 18 episodes are spread out over 4 discs and presented in expected 1.78:1 widescreen. Special features include deleted scenes, “Sam Axe’s Guide to Ladies and Libations,” “Burn Notice Roasts White Collar,” “White Collar Roasts Burn Notice,” “Best-Laid Plans: The Stunts of Burn Notice,” Audio Commentary on the season finale, and a Gag Reel. It was released on June 7th, 2011. Television Rating: 2.0/5.0
Television Rating: 2.0/5.0


Debuting right after “Burn Notice” in an extended premiere is yet another legal drama, the inert “Suits.” With a genre road as well-trodden as the legal arena, it takes a bit more effort to stand out and “Suits” just doesn’t do it, especially with a far-more-entertaining offering airing this very season on USA’s closest basic cable competitor (“Franklin & Bash” on TNT).

Photo credit: USA

Of course, “Suits” follows the basic buddy formula that USA has patented on shows like “White Collar” and “Psych,” focusing on two men from other sides of the legal universe. On one side there’s Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), a smooth-talking hotshot who can close the case and bed the waitress at the celebratory dinner later that night. Harvey can apparently do no wrong. On the other side, there’s Mike (Patrick J. Adams), a smart kid who actually takes other student’s tests for spending money but can’t focus himself enough to get ahead on his own.

Mike finds himself in a potentially deadly situation when a drug deal he apprehensively gets involved in is about to go wrong and he ducks into the interviews for a new Summer Associate being conducted by Harvey. Thinking that his stuck-up firm could use an injection of street smarts, Harvey actually hires Mike. He may not have the actual credentials but he’s something of a legal prodigy. Can the Harvard-educated lawyer really learn something from the man on the street? And vice versa?

Macht and Adams have reasonable chemistry (a key ingredient in a show like “Suits”) but the writers let them down. The show just never clicks, at least in the premiere. To be blunt, I just didn’t care. There was a time when engaging leads with strong chemistry was enough but the fact is that the summer season has become nearly as crowded as the rest of the year. With “Falling Skies,” Franklin & Bash,” “Royal Pains,” “True Blood,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and more on this Summer, “Suits” just isn’t well-tailored enough to stand out.

“Burn Notice” stars Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell, and Sharon Gless. The fifth season premieres on June 23rd, 2011 at 8pm CST. “Suits” stars Gabriel Macht, Patrick J. Adams, Meghan Markle, Gina Torres, Rick Hoffman, and Sarah Rafferty. It premieres on June 23rd, 2011 at 9pm CST. content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

Kenny's picture

Burn Notice and Suits is an AWESOME pair, review is wrong

Two things:

1) Burn Notice had a great premier, with the writers using the helpful element of time to effectively bridge the gap between Michael’s return to the CIA and him leaving the Miami vigilante business. Nevertheless, the show retained it’s appealing charm, bringing in likeable new characters while providing a stark contrast between Michael’s vigilante work and his new, unofficial CIA gig. Also, the review forgot to mention that Coby Bell is also one of Burn Notice’s stars, playing Jesse Porter, a former counterintelligence field activity agent burned by Michael but reinstated following the events of the show’s season 4 finale. Luckily, the writers were able to keep his presence in the show (a move supported by many Burn Notice fans) by having him become dissatisfied with his old life, eventually gaining a new job in Miami, outside of the CIA. Burn Notice’s season premiere was expertly balanced with a mix of humor, sex, emotional conflict, and the action packed spy shticks we all love so much.

2) Suits was a show that I looked forward to from its early commercials. I was a little apprehensive due to the annoying habit held by most stations wherein a promising show fails to achieve the potential half the viewers at home could realize, but I have to say, this was one of the best show pilots I’ve ever seen, in my opinion catapulting the show to a level that could send it to high critical acclaim. The show follows Michael “Mike” Ross as he is led by fate to a job he’d dreamed of all his life. Luckily it wasn’t one of those things where completely random circumstances lead to a serendipitous occurrence, and while the situation was unlikely, it was propelled by the realistic genius of Mike Ross. Mike’s failure to reach his potential was largely due to his friend, Trevor, influencing most of his life. Luckily Mike eventually chooses to side with Harvey over Trevor (even managing to expose his..ummm.. illegal pot dealing ways to his innocent and highly attractive girlfriend). There were no loopholes, and everything was largely the result of Mike’s own perceptiveness, which while coupled with the charming ego of Harvey Specter, the “best closer in Manhattan”, provided an extremely pleasing pilot that was satisfying enough to have me make Thursday my official TV night due to the USA network super combo of Burn Notice and Suits. USA decided to package burns and suits together, hehe *Get it*, and I gotta say, they delivered!

Anonymous's picture


Language was a real turnoff and that’s exactly what we did, about 10 minutes into the show .. Hire new writers! .. We don’t need to hear God’s name used in vain along with other foul language .. USA you blew this one by lowering your standard to those who have NO standards

Dave's picture

Exactly like White Collar

I have to admit that I watch USA religiously as I feel the shows USA puts out are far better than your regular channels. That said when I watched Suits I was entertained but I found myself fast forwarding my DVR to get to the point where the main character gets hired, then gets a difficult case, then is almost fired and then shows off he can do the job and makes amends with his boss.
This show in my opinion is an exactly replica of White Collar with a legal twist. I mean consider this:

1 - Genius Character who has skills that nobody on Earth has - White Collar as well

2 - Character utilizes these skills now for good - White Collar as well

3 - Character has a second lease on life - White Collar as well

4 - Character is tied to his boss like a ball and chain and the boss essentially uses this relationship like a carrot in front of the donkey to keep the character in check - White Collar as well

5 - Character will bend the rules and almost or literally be fired numerous times but somehow come back into his bosses good graces - White Collar as well.

In my opinion 5 main similarities do not make a new show that is captivating.
I was hoping this guy was going to have some sort of higher ability such as a photographic memory where he could read a whole page in a second etc and have the show focus on him utilizing that ability rather than just have him say that he read the entire bar manual etc.

He needs more skills that will make him an exciting and over the top character yet at this point I don’t see him as anything special and I feel others will feel the same way

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