'White Collar,' premiering Friday on USA

Verne Gay
Newsday (MCT)

REASON TO WATCH: The latest from the USA factory line, which hasn't turned out a lemon this year

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Genius career criminal Neal Caffrey (Matthew Bomer) breaks out of the joint he's been locked away in for three years and nine months to ... find his girlfriend. That's an amazing and inscrutable decision on his part, given that he has only three months to go. He's quickly caught by the same FBI agent who nabbed him years earlier — Peter Stokes (Tim DeKay), who has spent a career chasing master forgers, thieves and con men.

But he's got an offer that Caffrey can't refuse — help him catch an elusive art forger known as the Dutchman, and his freedom will be earned. Caffrey likes the deal but not necessarily the terms — like living in a fleabag motel in New York because it's a cheap bill for the Feds.

His splendidly honed grifter instincts kick in, and he meets lovely widow June (Diahann Carroll), who lets him move into her uptown mansion. Neal loves the good life, but there's work to be done, like help Stokes catch the bad guy, and fast. Meanwhile, he wonders longingly about his missing girlfriend, Kate. What exactly did happen to beautiful Kate?

BOTTOM LINE: Don't worry your pretty heads, dear readers, over whether this show sounds like something you've maybe seen before — and, oh yeah, what show or movie might that have been, by the way? — because I guarantee that you've absolutely seen this before. A hundred times, a thousand times before.

"White Collar" is not original. But "White Collar" is enjoyable. The secret? Mostly in the martini-dry humor — shaken, not stirred — and the chemistry of the leads. DeKay's Stokes is the older bro to the much cooler younger bro, Caffrey. They like each other but also resent each other — a jousting ego and superego in which one is all duty and the other all desire. Bomer ("Tru Calling," "Traveler") is a good-looking and skillful actor in search of a hit. "White Collar" should definitely do the trick.





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