When USA's top-rated South Florida spy series "Burn Notice" returns June 14 for its sixth season, viewers can expect wild car chases and explosive covert operations, along with the show's trademark tongue-in-cheek humor.
But this season is more personal for lead character Michael Westen, a formerly blacklisted superspy played by Jeffrey Donovan.
"This is all intensely personal for Michael. It's not about big organizations or abstract goals. It's about the woman he loves," says Matt Nix, the show's creator, executive producer and writer, in an email. "We've seen a lot of what Michael does when he's able to separate himself emotionally from a situation and come up with a clever plan. I was interested in what happens when he lets his emotions take control."
The season premiere picks up from last season's finale. Westen has restored his name with the CIA. But now, he has to find a way to vindicate his on-and-off again girlfriend, Fiona, played by Gabrielle Anwar, who surrendered to the authorities on terrorism charges to save him from blackmail from a sinister nemesis.
"He's just lost the woman he loves, the man responsible is about to walk free, and he's racing against the clock trying to deal with it. At the same time, the emotional impact of the situation on Michael is devastating," Nix adds.
The show, which is filmed in South Florida, has become one of the cable network's most-popular series, averaging 6.2 million viewers a week last season.
Fans and media analysts credit that success to the ensemble cast and the series' premise -- the lighter side of spy work.
In each episode, Donovan's spy-for-hire describes his intelligence work in a cool voice-over. He also uses everyday household items such as light bulbs and brake fluid to make things go "boom!" when he and his team face deadly situations. He also has to deal with his overbearing mother, played by Sharon Gless, who sometimes gets ensnared in his spy games.
That makes the show an unusual hybrid of comedy, drama and action.
"It's a little bit of 'MacGyver' and 'Mission: Impossible,' " says Robert Thompson, a TV professor at Syracuse University. "Once a week, they help somebody and the show becomes another detective procedural, and then you have the whole family domestic thing with a cast of characters that are compelling."
Like social-media spies, viewers also get into the undercover games. They use Twitter to track updates about the show's storylines, location shoots and cast whereabouts in South Florida.
Karen Leckey of Boynton Beach is one of those die-hard fans. She frequently posts and follows Twitter updates about the show's location shoots. Sometimes, she stops by to see the cast in action.
She says the show "manages to be intense and still fun and escapist. People are getting shot in a scene, and they insert humor in there."
Fellow fan Chad Thilborger agrees.
"I know the show never takes itself too seriously," says Thilborger, of Fort Lauderdale, who likes to guess where a scene was shot when he watches the show. "I have often recognized sites along the Fort Lauderdale riverfront and around and about Victoria Park. ... [I'm] definitely looking forward to the new season."
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