First of all, someone at USA Network, or whomever they farm out their DVD stuff to, should be given a big raise. Why? Because I had barely ever heard of White Collar before I saw the pilot episode on the Season Four DVD set of Burn Notice, another USA show. It was there, I had 45 minutes to kill, so I watched it. And ordered White Collar Season One on my next Amazon purchase. Genius, give people a taste of something, seemingly for free, and get them to spend some money later. Give that person/people a raise or a promotion. Or both.
White Collar is another of those charismatic cop shows that have started popping up since The Mentalist came out. I would imagine that White Collar was in development before that happened, but you can't say that Simon Baker and company didn't grease the skids. The premise is simple: Neil Caffrey (Matt Bomer), a forger, theif and all around 'white collar' crook offers to help his FBI catcher, Peter Burke (Tim DeKay). The deal is this: Caffrey helps Burke with his cases, Burke keeps him out of prison. But Caffrey has another agenda as well, his missing ex-girlfriend Kate (Alexandra Daddario), who may or may not be under the control of elements in the FBI. His search for her, abetted by his friend Mozz (Willie Garson), tends to complicate his professional relationship with Burke, though Burke's wife Eleanor (Tiffani Thiesson) is in Neil's corner, mostly.
Neil might just be the smartest TV cop there is, other than Simon Baker's Patrick Jane from The Mentalist (technically they're both consultants), and that's part compliment part problem, as both characters are geniuses whose personal obsessions are often their undoings. But they're right a bit too often and easily for realism's sake. Except that you like both of them so much that ultimately you don't really care. That's what Matt Bomer brings to the role, he's convincing as a crook with a heart of gold, and is so smooth that it makes me wonder why it took him so long to break out as an actor. He's got a ton of talent, this won't be his last star vehicle. Tim DeKay's Peter Burke tries to be the by the book FBI agent, but Neil is not the best influence on him, though they get the job done. As the season (14 episodes) goes on, he looks the other way more and more often, showing a nice gray area as the two of them become friends and learn to trust each other, a bit. What I didn't like about him was his constant threatening to Neil to put him back in prison if Case X didn't get solved. Memo to the writers: No FBI agent/team solves every single case in a couple of days, or else. DeKay seemed to overact at times, but I wonder if it was just the contrast to Bomer's smoothness, I'm conflicted there. Thiessen plays the loving wife, and her byplay with Neil and Mozz is hilarious when it happens. Mozz is the loyal best friend and wingman for Neil, and Garson plays him humorously, but not slapsticky. He gets most of the best lines, but that's his job.
The episodes are part single stories, combined with the overall 'find out what happened to Kate' subplot that runs through each of them. The crimes are highbrow, given the title and theme of the show, and while murder is involved sometimes, it's not that kind of show. The season ended on......not a cliffhanger per se, but a 'What the......!??!' kind of moment that was not what I was expecting. That's a good thing by the way. Yeah, I'll be getting Season Two.
Interesting plot(s), good, sometimes really good, acting, and a fast moving pace. White Collar is a winner, and while I had a couple of quibbles, it doesn't take away from a 5 star rating. Maybe more networks should put pilots of their newer shows on DVD's for their hits. Worked with me, my hard earned dollars are on their way to them.