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The conman and the cop
on 17 May 2010
I don't think I've ever quite heard of a show quite like "White Collar," a clever new mystery show in which the FBI decides to employ a brilliant criminal to help them bust other "white collar" criminals. While it has an intriguing new twist on the odd-couple cop show, it also has brilliantly witty writing, a murky conspiracy within the FBI, and some excellent actors with plenty of chemistry -- and it promises to get even better.
While searching for a thief known as the Dutchman, FBI agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) hears that gentleman thief/conman/counterfeiter Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer)-- who he put in prison -- has escaped, only to allow himself to be recaptured. Caffrey is desperate to find his girlfriend Kate, and so he makes Burke an offer: free him from prison, and he'll help him catch the Dutchman.
Though he's dubious about Neal, Peter reluctantly agrees. After only a few hours out, Neal has a new wardrobe, a luxurious apartment and a wealthy landlady who doesn't care that he's a former thief. And he's working for the FBI.
Together, the odd partners tackle a bunch of tricky white-collar cases: data hidden in a designer dress, a priceless Bible stolen from a mobster, a painting with a dodgy trail, smuggled Iraqi artifacts, clashes with Interpol in Chinatown, a jewel robbery, infiltrating Wall Street, real estate fraud, an illegal organ-trafficking ring, priceless wine bottles, and a kidnapper who is gunning for Neal. And as Neal tries to unravel the clues that Kate has left him, he and Peter become entangled in a shadowy conspiracy within the FBI...
The first season of "White Collar" is a lot like Neal Caffrey -- elegant, smart and charming, to the point where you don't really care that it has some painfully unrealistic moments (trotting their only witness onto a rooftop party with the KILLER nearby?), and a few slow spots. Fortunately, the writers seem to be smoothing the lumps out.
And the writers have a knack for winding together the one-off cases with an overarcing plot about a corrupt FBI agent who is conspiring against Neal and Peter. There's plenty of hilarious dialogue ("It's a loft, seized in a DEA bust -- fifteen hundred square feet, service elevator. It's perfect!" "Is that a chalk outline?" "I'm sure they've cleaned that up by now") and suspenseful little scenes where Neal and/or Mozzie disguise themselves to infiltrate secure places where the FBI can't go without a warrant.
But the show's heart is DeKay and Bomer. DeKay is a snappy, sharp-edged FBI agent who is willing to bend the rules to get the job done, and respects Neal more than he'll admit. And Bomer is a sort of 21st-century Remington Steele: boyishly handsome, clever, charming, refined, and a little bit rakish. At the same time, you really feel sorry for him because of the loss of Kate, and the hints that she may be in on the plot against him.
There's also a solid supporting cast -- Tiffani Thiessen as Peter's loving, long-suffering wife, and Willie Garson as the hilarious Mozzie ("I just said that to a guy who enjoys killing people with his bare hands!"). Also good performances by Diahann Carroll and Noah Emmerich.
It sounds like just another odd-couple cop show, but "White Collar Season 1" has the benefit of excellent writing, acting and some grippingly suspenseful plots. Definitely check it out.