White Collar Review: Series Premiere

USA is a network that thrives on series with great characters and after viewing the pilot episode of White Collar, it appears this series will fit in perfectly on the network. The show follows a con-man who is paying off his debt to society by working with the FBI.

White Collar opens with Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) making a daring escape from prison look all too easy. A simple shave and a haircut (and a prison guard uniform) is all it takes for the criminal mastermind to make his escape. He literally walks out the front door and gets to his destination through a series of well-timed and well thought out maneuvers. Witnessing the escape is the perfect intro to who this character is. Caffrey wasn’t making a living robbing banks or holding people at gunpoint before he was caught. He is a master of deceit and that isn’t something that’s gone unnoticed by the man who finally caught him and put him away. FBI agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) knows Caffrey inside and out and is put in charge of tracking him down and bringing him in to serve four more years. Fortunately for Caffrey, who in addition to being extremely observant, also seems to have a lot of luck on his side, he manages to work out a deal with Burke wherein he avoids returning to prison in exchange for helping the FBI take down other con-men.

Does any of this sound familiar? If you’ve seen Catch Me If You Can or know the story of Frank Abagnale Jr then you’re probably seeing the similarities. Abagnale was con-man who, after evading the FBI for a long time and scamming millions of dollars out of banks and people, was finally caught and ended up becoming a security consultant. While I doubt we’ll be seeing Caffrey flying any planes anytime soon, his charming (and let’s face it, good-looking) nature is not unlike that of Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Abagnale.

The first episode introduces us to the characters and establishes the new working-relationship between Burke and Caffrey. As the two were playing cat and mouse for a long time before Caffrey was eventually caught and imprisoned, they sort of already know each other, so it’s not all that hard to buy the friendship that begins to develop right off the bat. We also get to see Caffrey help out on an investigation involving some art forgery, which is a nice introduction to how this job is going to work. As Caffrey’s tethered to a GPS tracker on his ankle, getting around proves to be tricky for him, since he’s confined to a two-mile radius, however he manages to do alright and upgrade his living situation startlingly fast.

We’re also introduced to Burke’s wife Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen), an event planner who appears to be somewhat in on what her husband does, at least enough to offer her two-cents. Willie Garson, whom I will always associate with his role as Stanford in Sex and the City plays Mozzie, a work acquaintance of Caffrey’s that will likely be helping out with information as the series progresses.

The mystery of Caffrey’s romantic interest looks like it’ll be one of the overlying plots of the series, in addition to Caffrey’s work with the FBI. We know that he cares about this woman enough to break out of prison (with just four months left on a five year sentence) and we know that she took off without leaving much in the way of a note. I’m assuming we’ll be fed more of this story as the series progresses.

White Collar looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun with some humor, mystery and a bit of action mixed in to keep audiences engaged. The series seems almost like it’ll be another Burn Notice-type of show. While BN’s Michael Westen is a wealth of spy-knowledge, Neal Caffrey appears to be just as educated in the art of crime. What’s more, despite his history of criminal activity, he’s working for the good-guys now, so it’s ok to cheer him on. Credit to Bomer for delivering a great performance as a man who is actually believable as someone who could get away with some of the things he’s got on his record. And credit to DeKay for portraying the quick-minded FBI agent who didn’t let Caffrey get away with everything. The two actors have a good chemistry together and the two characters look like they’ll make a great on-screen team.

What I think we can expect to see from this series on an episode-to-episode basis is Caffrey using his crime knowledge to help the FBI, while also putting himself in danger on a regular basis (we see a sampling of that in the pilot) and also trying to find out what happened to his girlfriend. I’m also guessing that, like Burn Notice and some of USA’s other series, this is the kind of show that will have fans on the edge of their seats each week, while also being open to new viewers who might decided to jump into the show mid-season.

In terms of the pilot episode and the potential this series has from the start, White Collar is exciting, intelligent, humorous and all around good TV.

White Collar

Starring: Matt Bomer, Tim Dekay, Tiffani Thiessen, Willie Garson

Premieres: Friday, October 23 (10:00 p.m. ET) on USA

Kelly West
Assistant Managing Editor

Kelly joined CinemaBlend as a freelance TV news writer in 2006 and went on to serve as the site’s TV Editor before moving over to other roles on the site. At present, she’s an Assistant Managing Editor who spends much of her time brainstorming and editing feature content on the site.