USA Network's newest 'characters' debut Friday in 'White Collar'

Rick Bentley
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

PASADENA, Calif. — The USA Network has put together one of the better lineups of original programming on cable with its "characters welcome" approach. Series such as "Monk," "Psyche," "Burn Notice," "Royal Pains" and "In Plain Sight" feature quirky and interesting characters.

Friday night, "White Collar" will take its place in among that TV world of slightly damaged eccentrics. Whether they're a welcome addition to the cable network's lineup depends on series stars Matt Bomer and Tom DeKay.

Bomer plays Neal Caffrey, the most charming white-collar criminal on television since Robert Wagner starred in the '60s TV series "It Takes a Thief." The only man who's been able to catch Caffrey is Peter Burke (DeKay), a by-the-book agent with the FBI's White Collar Crime Unit.

In a move lifted from the Eddie Murphy/Nick Nolte film "48 Hrs.," the pair join forces to catch crooks. Burke gets Caffrey released from prison to stop a master forger. If the case goes well (a given if the series is to last more than one episode), then the working relationship will become permanent.

Series executive producer and writer James Eastin was inspired by one of his favorite films, "Catch Me If You Can."

"I took a look at that and said, 'This seems like an obvious place to go.' We've seen "48 Hrs.," we've seen the "Catch Me If You Can," and we thought this would be a really great opportunity to do it on a network that would do it right," Eastin says.

DeKay plays a standard tough and committed detective who has a soft middle he doesn't like to show, except around his incredibly understanding wife (Tiffani Thiessen).

If the show is to win over audiences, the work will fall to Bomer, who must make his con-artist character charming enough for viewers to embrace despite his criminal past.

"I think one of the things that humanizes the character is that he generally comes kind of from a quixotic place. He's kind of like a 4-year-old in that he doesn't have a lot of impulse control. He's always testing boundaries," Bomer says.

That plays out in the series opener when Caffrey sweet talks his way out of a fleabag hotel provided by the FBI into more luxurious accommodations. This is the start of a unique working relationship between cop and criminal — characters USA hopes become the next fan favorites.





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