Complete First Season
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Reviewed by Will Harris
veryone knows that crime doesn’t pay, but in “White Collar,” one man’s knowledge of crime certainly results in a payoff of sorts.
Neal Caffrey (Matthew Bomer) is one of the world’s most brilliant forgers, and it’s a talent that has found him serving prison time on more than one occasion. But combine that gift with a handsome face and a hell of a lot of charisma and it’s amazing what a guy can accomplish. When the series kicks off, we see him perpetrate an escape from the lock-up, and once he’s out in the real world, every move seems to go more perfectly than the next. He hotwires a car, takes it to the airport, switches it out for a different car when some careless rich dude thinks he’s a valet, and then it’s off to find his wife. Unfortunately, that’s when things start to fall apart for Neal, but oddly enough, it’s also when his life turns a new corner. Y’see, whenever Neal has utilized his abilities as a forger, he’s had one man on his tail: Special Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay). The two have a unique relationship, where each respects the other’s abilities in the field, and when Neal escapes from prison, Peter knows exactly where to find him. What he doesn’t entirely expect, however, is to see Neal sitting in an empty apartment.
That’s right, Neal’s wife has left, and with no idea where to find her, he’s willing to accept his fate and let Peter take him back to prison…at first. Just as Peter’s getting ready to take Neal away, Neal notices a fiber on Peter’s shoulder, left there from another case earlier in the day, and realizes that he’s been presented with an opportunity to make a deal. The next thing you know, Peter has gotten authorization to use Neal as a “consultant,” giving him a tracking anklet and – provided their liaison is a successful one – a whole new lease on life. Naturally, Neal uses his aforementioned gift of good looks and charm to upgrade his digs, finding his way into the heart of a well-to-do widow (played by the still-gorgeous Diahann Carroll), who offers him a room in her huge townhouse. Additionally, while helping Peter on his cases, Neal continues to search for his wife’s whereabouts with the assistance of his longtime associate, Mozzie (Willie Garson), a fellow conman.
You know how the USA Network trumpets their whole “Characters Welcome” mantra? This is another great example of them putting their money where their catchphrase is. The series goes out of its way to develop both Neal and Peter, showing how much they’ve learned about each other. Granted, there are occasions when you get the feeling that they might be betraying what we know about their relationship for the sake of a suspenseful moment, such as with Neal jumping the gun and fearing the worst about Peter’s involvement with his wife, but far more often than not, the mix of drama, light humor, and action makes for a smooth blend. Additionally, the ensemble is a strong one: Tiffani Thiessen does a fine job as Pete’s wife, Elizabeth, and it’s awesome to see Natalie Morales – late of ABC Family’s “The Middleman” – back in action as a member of Pete’s team, along with Sharif Atkins (“ER”). And just to give one more shout-out to the cast, Noah Emmerich makes for an excellent villain, coming across like the former high school bully who still likes to push people around. (Think Biff from the “Back to the Future” films.)
“White Collar” is a strong addition to USA’s family of series, offering a nice amount of ongoing plot arc stuff, but still making it easy for the casual viewer to just pop in and enjoy the camaraderie between the characters.
Special Features: The audio commentaries for the set, done by the show’s stars (Bomer, DeKay, Thiessen, and Garson), along with series creator Jeff Eastin, are particularly loose and make for fun listening. Also included are a trio of featurettes – “Pro and Con,” “A Cool Cat in the Hat,” and “Nothing but the Truth” – as well as a gag reel and a series of deleted scenes, many of which are referenced during the commentaries.