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Burt Reynolds Should Be a Recurring Character on USA's "Burn Notice"
July 22, 2010  | By David Bianculli

Thursday night at 9 ET on USA's Burn Notice, Burt Reynolds guest stars as a retired spy targeted by a Russian hit squad. Michael and his crew come to the rescue -- in a crisp TV "buddy movie" so delightful, it all but demands a string of sequels...

Reynolds plays Paul, a former spy whose drunken posting on the Internet catches the eye, and sparks the ire, of a Russian special ops team, who descend upon Miami determined to find Paul, and kill him. At first, Jeffrey Donovan's Michael Westen presumes the Russians are coming for him -- but when he IDs the true target, he and his team decide to intercept the hit men, and save the old man.


The old man, meanwhile, loves the action: breaking into a safe, being chased by bad guys, drawing a gun again. He has two settings: grumpy old-timer and wide-eyed overgrown kid. Reynolds, of course, is great at playing both.

It's not surprising, but it is gratifying, to see Reynolds exude so much ease and comfort acting for television. After all, he started there -- and not just in the title role in 1970's Dan August, before attaining movie stardom in Deliverance and Smokey and the Bandit.


Burt Reynolds began his acting career on television more than 50 years ago, playing a one-episode role on M Squad in 1959. He co-starred as Ben Frazer for a season on Riverboat, opposite Darren McGavin (pictured) that same year, Reynolds' first recurring role. For the next decade, appeared on an exhaustively long list of still-familiar TV shows, including Playhouse 90, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Naked City, Route 66, Perry Mason, The Twilight Zone, Gunsmoke, Branded, Flipper, 12 O'Clock High, Gentle Ben, The F.B.I. and Love, American Style.

And now, here he is on Burn Notice, wisecracking effortlessly, safecracking laboriously, and making the most of his screen time with Notice co-stars Sharon Gless, Bruce Campbell and Gabrielle Anwar.


Especially, in this episode, Anwar, whose beautiful, trigger-happy, violence-prone Fiona instantly catches the eye of Reynolds' Paul.

Regaling her with an exciting tale of watching Michael fight and subdue a couple of bad guys, Paul tells Fiona, "They used to call it karate, but I think they got a new name for it now."

She smiles at him and replies, "Foreplay?"

"Hello!" he says, his eyes widening with unchecked delight.

It's the way Reynolds delivers that line, and so many others, that makes me hope Burn Notice finds a way to return Reynolds to the fold. He and Donovan have an obvious chemistry together -- and when it comes to Burt Reynolds, 51 years of television doesn't seem like enough.




Diane Werts said:

Dave, you forgot Burt's first starring TV gig -- as a Native American detective on ABC's '60s copfest Hawk. I was so young, and I thought he was soooo hot . . .
[Hey, Diane! (Love it when we TVWW folks jump on a party line.) No, I didn't FORGET Hawk. Just didn't have the same visceral reaction to buff Burt that you obviously did. I guess he DID, however, win my heart with his Tonight Show appearances, where he joked with Johnny Carson with a casualness almost no other celebrity dared to match. -- David B.]

Comment posted on July 22, 2010 10:25 AM

Paul said:

Burn Notice is one of the treats on television. Tv Worth Watching indeed.

Comment posted on July 22, 2010 10:49 AM

Eileen said:

Any show Burt Reynolds is in is better for his having been there.

You didn't mention Evening Shade in your review. I could never understand why that show didn't have a longer run on tv. It was one of the funniest, cutest shows on at the time. The supporting cast was amazing: Ossie Davis, Michael Jeter, Hal Holbrook, Elizabeth Ashley, et al. And Burt was the glue that held it all together.

If I'm not mistaken, wasn't the whole Burt Reynolds-Lonnie Anderson brouhaha the reason for its cancellation? I just remember it was on one Monday, and missing the next with no explanation.

I plan to watch this on your say so...

And, that son of yours is some fantastic writer.

[You are SO sweet to say so (about Mark, my son, that is -- he just posted a thank-you to you and other posters as a comment appended to his original column). And yes, Evening Shade was great, and Burt was wonderful in it -- but by my memory, the cancellation was just standard CBS impatience with smart comedies, rather than any ratings-killing controversy. Anyway, let me know what you think about Burn Notice. -- David B.]

Comment posted on July 22, 2010 1:49 PM

Jim Forkan said:

Hi Dave
And don't forget Dan August, his first hit. Though Burt himself didn't really become a star till he went on the talk show circuit to promote that show -- and show off his great sense of humor.

Comment posted on July 22, 2010 4:52 PM

Linda said:

This particular episode of "Burn Notice" is still waiting on TiVo for me, Dave, but adding Burt Reynolds to the mix can be nothing short of perfect. And with Fiona? One of the best female characters around? Love it.

And on the topic of "Evening Shade" as mentioned by Eileen... Loved that show, as well. Had one of my favorite lines of all time. As Elizabeth Ashley's Aunt Frieda was saying something to Burt's Wood Newton in her trademark wonderful raspy voice, Wood said, "Somewhere there's a moose slapping on Aramis."

Yeah...I can't remember where I put my keys, but that line has stuck with me all this time.

[And your line just made ME laugh like a moose. Thanks. -- David B.]

Comment posted on July 23, 2010 2:56 PM
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