I had low expectations for “White Collar,” an hour-long drama on the USA Network. The premise is a tired, aged-old scenario seen countless times throughout TV and film. A law enforcement agency works with a former criminal offering freedom in exchange for his expertise. Coming in, this recycled scenario was not something I expected to light the world on fire.
And it didn’t. But I didn’t mind it. As the show progressed through its pilot episode, it got stronger. It’s not exactly something I’d watch weekly but I still think it’s worth an hour to check out. The show centers on Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer), a charming, professional con-man and Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay, aka “Bizzaro Jerry” from “Seinfeld”), a straight-laced law dog.
The first 20 minutes set up the series. Burke catches Caffrey after the latter escaped prison in an attempt to chase the woman he loves. While in custody, Caffrey tells Burke he can help him catch a particular con artist if he’s granted freedom. After hesitation and initial denial, Burke accepts Caffrey’s offer and we go from there.
Throughout the episode, the duo goes through a typical tumultuous road with trust issues at stake on the road to solving the mystery. Not shockingly, Caffrey finds the right man and helps Burke lock him down. The story itself was basic and formulaic. But that’s fine. If you want a plot that’s bold, daring and innovative – go to HBO or AMC, and for the love of God, stay away from USA.
USA’s shows typically rely on characters and not storylines. Their shows feature strong leads that can carry a 40 minute block such as Jeffrey Donovan (“Burn Notice”) and James Roday (“Psych”). “White Collar” has two strong leads with noticeable on-screen chemistry. Like their network counterparts, the duo also brings out the lighter side of drama (another USA Network theme).
The supporting cast leaves a little bit to be desired. In her 700th role since “Saved by the Bell,” Tiffani Thiessen (apparently the “Amber” in her name got the heave-ho) is horribly miscast as Burke’s wife. The only worthwhile cast member outside of Burke and Caffrey is Caffrey’s con-artist friend, Mozzie (Willie Garson).
Yet, a lackluster supporting cast doesn’t weigh down “White Collar” completely. Unlike “CSI” or “Law and Order”, “White Collar” is held up by a strong lead, not a strong ensemble. In this regard, as I said, this light-action drama is worth a look.
TV Quick Hits of the Week: This week was about getting to check out a few shows I hadn’t seen before.
Modern Family: (Check out the review from Blast’s Jill Vallecorsa) Love this show, it’s got great potential and I’ll probably add it to my weekly lineup. The most recent episode had a great tri-arch shifting between the three families. I particularly love the character of Manny (Rico Rodriguez) – probably the most appealing kid sitcom stars since Kevin Arnold. Ed O’Neill as Jay Pritchett is on top of his typical pig-headish, alpha-male game while the duo of Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) creates great on screen chemistry.
Sons of Anarchy: I have to admit, I watched this show for the first time this past week. I was thoroughly impressed with Sons of Anarchy. In the episode I saw “Gilead,” there was great dramatic tension and comprehensive character interactions. One scene in particular where Jean Carlos “Juice” Ortiz (Theo Rossi) is about to get the “Oz” treatment, kept me on edge. It’s a very layered drama with outstanding performances from Charlie Hunnman as Jax, Ron Perlman as Clay and Katey Sagal (big week for the Bundy family) as Gemma. If you haven’t seen “Sons,” I highly recommend it.