USA announces fall premiere dates for ‘Burn Notice,’ ‘Psych’ & ‘Covert Affairs’

Fienberg is in New Orleans for a few days doing a movie set visit, which means two things: 1)Podcast delayed until probably Wednesday, and 2)I’m filling in for him on covering various bits of breaking TV news.

Ordinarily, I would take a piece of info like USA announcing its fall premiere dates – that “Psych” will start its sixth season on October 12, while “Covert Affairs” and “Burn Notice” (which go on hiatus in early September) will return to finish out their current seasons on, respectively, November 1 and November 3 – write a short news article, and be done with it.

But in this case, it occurs to me that I haven’t written about “Burn Notice” since the most recent season premiere, and I’d like to take the temperature of the audience about how season five is going.

I’ll admit that, since taking the show out of the regular rotation, there have been times when episodes have spent a while gathering metaphorical dust on the DVR before I’ve gotten around to them, but on the whole I’m pleased with what Matt Nix and company have done to tweak the formula this season.

We’d already taken the mystery of who burned Michael and why as far as it could go, and the new arrangement – with most episodes split between Michael helping the CIA out as a consultant (and, lately, trying to prevent himself from being framed for Max’s murder) and some combination of the supporting cast helping out a local client – has kept things fairly fresh at a relatively advanced age for the show. There are times when I wish the split wasn’t so specific – it’s almost always Michael working with one of Sam, Fi and Jesse, while the others (plus Madeline) do their own thing – because I miss the chemistry of the whole ensemble working together. But the individual duos and trios work well together, and having Michael work with the CIA again allows the show to operate on a scale it simply couldn’t back when he was more or less an unlicensed private detective (with access to high explosives). The episode from a few weeks ago where Michael, Jesse and Agent Pearce(*) hoodwinked an island full of mercenaries was preposterous and yet a lot of fun, precisely because the odds were so insane.

(*) Lauren Stamile’s been an upgrade on some of the show’s more problematic guest characters (Detective Paxson, to name one), but I definitely preferred Grant Show’s Max, and wish the roles had been reversed: that Pearce was Michael’s initial handler, then murdered, and then Max came in as both a new ally and potential enemy.

How does everybody else feel about this season? “White Collar” (which I lost track of when I went to Comic-Con and press tour) seems to have passed “Burn Notice” as the USA summer show that people elevate above a laundry-folder. Do you like the tweaks to the formula? Would you rather the CIA just go away and Michael hang out a PI shingle (and maybe buy a Ferrari and/or grow a mustache)?