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White Collar: The Complete First Season

(USA; US DVD: 13 Jul 2010)

This show is about as soaked in style as the USA network can manage, which turns out to be a surprising amount.

Matt Bomer plays Neal Caffrey, art forger and white collar criminal who was captured by FBI agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay).  Caffrey escapes prison to search for his lover, Kate, and is caught again by Burke. Caffrey makes a deal to become a consultant for Burke and help the white collar division solve crimes. His semi-freedom allows him to re-connect with old contacts and search for his vanished lover.  Burke tries to balance the dangers of letting a brilliant criminal walk almost-free (he has a anklet that is set to a two-mile radius when Caffrey is not on the clock) with the advantages gained by having a master criminal working on the side of the law.

Tiffani Thiessen plays Elizabeth Burke, Peter’s wife, who runs an event planning business and is every bit Peter’s match (one of the strong points of the series for me—Elizabeth isn’t an agent or a criminal, but her perspective and experience and support as an equal partner to Peter is invaluable).

The show quickly establishes a solid rhtyhm, with Caffrey applying his skills as a thief to complement Burke’s by-the-book lawman schtick. Bomer and DeKay have a great odd-couple dynamic, and the rest of the cast provides good support and color. Especially of note is Willie Garson’s “Mozzie,” who serves as a great straight-man/co-conspirator to Caffrey’s after-hours plotting.

The show balances the episodic cases that change week to week with Caffrey’s quest to find Kate. Burke gets involved in the chase as well—Caffrey tries to search for her without Burke’s knowledge, and Burke is trying to help Caffrey without compromising his integrity as an agent.

The show has a great energy, good comedic chops, and displays the craft and coolness of white-collar crime, especially when the displaying is being done by the fantastic Matt Bomer, who disappears into the role and makes Neal Caffrey an instantly iconic character.

The season one DVD set includes commentaries on several episodes, with most commentaries conducted by the series creator with other members of the cast and development team. The commentaries are sometimes amusing, giving anecdotes about the shooting conditions, commenting on the characters and story. The commentaries are solid, but not exceptional. Fortunately, there are several other special features, including a gag reel, deleted scenes and three featurettes. The featurettes focus on Neal Caffrey as a character (and as embodied by Bomer), the wardrobe/costuming of the show (which is fantastic), and the craft/details of white collar crime (as exemplified by their expert consultant, a former agent).

White Collar fits comfortably with USA’s shows like Burn Notice and Covert Affairs, and will also appeal to fans of TNT’s Leverage and anyone who likes heist/caper stories. The second season started airing on 13 July.


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