White Collar, Another Solid USA Network Show

White Collar, which debuted last Friday, appears to be another solid USA Network show. It’s charming, witty, dramatic but not too intense, and a generally good hour of comfort television.

The conceit of the show, as ridiculous as it may sound, is a FBI agent teams up with a master art thief/forger/con man to solve crimes. It’s as far fetched as the day is long but deliciously entertaining.

It’s quite obvious that White Collar will do for white collar crimes what Burn Notice (another USA Network show) does for espionage. The show’s crimes should be interesting and the sleuthing fascinating.

Tim Dekay plays FBI Agent Peter Burke. He’s terrific. He carries the show.

Burke is easy to like and easy to root for. He’s an overachieving underdog who constantly reminds his Ivy league compatriots that they are clueless.

Like his fellow television FBI agents, Burke is focused, single-minded and dedicated. His character avoids being a total cliche thanks to his relationship with his wife Elizabeth, played by Tiffani Thiessen.

Thiessen probably sleepwalks through her incredibly unchallenging role as a FBI agent’s wife, but she’s absolutely adorable and a nice change of pace from the feds and the cons.

Peter and Elizabeth’s relationship is one of the show’s strong points. It’s a marriage you don’t frequently see on television.

Right now, after the pilot episode, the show’s problem is with the show’s star. Matt Bomer plays the master art thief/forger/con man, Neal Caffrey. While he looks the part, he doesn’t play the part.

Caffrey needs to be charming but he’s not. He’s more douche than debonair. In Burn Notice, Michael Westen is both a lady’s man and guy’s guy. Caffrey fails to be the second half of that equation. Right now, he’s too smarmy, too unctuous and too effeminate to be likable.

Land of Punt think it’s his eyes. They are always open and they are always open wide. He needs to squint every once in a while.

Fortunately this can be fixed and we believe it will. Besides, this probably has less to do with Bomer’s talent (or his eyes) and more to do with the restrictions of a pilot. A lot of time was spent explaining the show’s premise and Burke’s relationship with his wife.

It should be noted that contrary to the way the USA Network is promoting the show, the real star of the show is Dekay, not Bomer. It’s obvious why they plaster Bomer’s face all over the place, he’s quite handsome, but White Collar is all about Burke.

The hallmark of any good show is great ancillary characters. White Collar is no exception. The great Willie Garson plays Caffrey’s mysterious friend and Marsha Thomason plays Burke’s probie. Both are fabulous and both light up the screen.

There’s a lot to like about White Collar and if you’re a fan of the other USA Network shows (Monk, Psych, Burn Notice, In Plain Sight, and Royal Pains) then you’ll probably like this effort. If you’ve never been able to get into the aforementioned parenthetical shows, then stay away.

As for it’s one glaring weakness, we expect, and hope, that in future episodes Caffrey’s character gets the attention it needs to evolve where it has to go.

The show was created by Jeff Eastin.

Update11-03-09/12:41

Caffrey was more likable in the second episode than he was in the pilot. However, LOP still feels like he has some “douche bag” tendencies. Our friend, Shangri-La, recently watched both episodes back-to-back. Shangri-La told us that she has no problem with Caffrey and really enjoyed the show.

Sadly, Marsha Thomason was not in the second episode and is no longer a part of the program. She’s been replaced by Natalie Morales who plays agent Lauren Cruz, who is fluent in five languages.

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