In case you aren’t aware, Burn Notice is, along with The Daily Show and C-SPAN, pretty much the only reason worth signing up for basic cable. But better yet, you can watch it online for free!
The show is about blacklisted ex-spy Michael Weston and his liability-nightmare escapades in Miami. Cult film hero Bruce Campbell (Ash from the Evil Dead franchise and writer/director/star of the fantastically underwhelming The Man with the Screaming Brain) plays a washed-up, almost-alcoholic ex-FBI agent who helps Michael out on his low-budget covert ops. Great action, great comedy with a few splashes of almost-soap-opera drama, and perhaps the best use of freeze-frame/voiceover that syndicated television has ever seen. Season 2 just started, and the whole thing has been kicked up a notch. The show is really coming into its own, and it’s thrilling to watch as it gains popularity and starts getting a bigger budget (most of which they seem to be spending on explosives and car crashes, which is just fine by me).
For film geeks: the fall 2007 issue of Exposure, Fujifilm’s magazine, informs me that the show is shot in Super 16mm on Fuji Endura 500T, 250D and Vivid 160T, using Arriflex SR2 and SR3 Highspeed cameras outfitted with Cooke S4 lenses. The dailies are onlined to HDCAM by Ralph Parez at Cineworks, Miami. The director of photography is Roy Wagner, ASC. Also of note is that the show is shot entirely in Miami, rather than getting a few scenic “button” shots and a couple scenes per season on location, and then high-tailing it back to LA for all of the other photography, which is what shows like CSI do.
While I’m talking about it, let me mention that to my knowledge, all USA Network narrative TV series are shot in Super 16mm, although at least Monk (and probably Psych) use Kodak stock. CBS still relies on 35mm (or maybe 4-perf Super 35) for their narrative shows, while NBC tends to use a mix (West Wing started out on 35mm and then switched to Super 16, while Scrubs is still full-aperture 35—the Law & Order franchise appears to have switched from 35 to Super 16 at the same time that they began to deliver in high-def). Most national TV commercials are shot on 35mm or some flavor of Super 35. In all, apart from live events, daily shows, reality TV and news, most television is still shot on film. This may be surprising to many people, but those of us “in the know” (we’re better than you—don’t fight it, just accept it) understand that film is still a superior acquisition medium when you’re shooting on a tight production schedule for a turnaround a few months down the road, especially when you’ve got countless hours of footage to manage. TV commercials, which don’t have to worry nearly as much about workflow or schedule, shoot film because it looks better than digital. :-P