Monday, October 26, 2009

Pilot Review: White Collar

White Collar (USA)
Premiered October 23 at 10pm

USA has added its latest crazy character to its roster, and the pilot of "White Collar" helps establish Matthew Bomer's Neal Caffrey as a wild personality deserving of such a classification. He's an art thief and con artist capable of escaping from prison simply by walking out the front door in a guard's uniform. The last TV character to pull off such a feat was Michael Scofield ("Prison Break") and he didn't have anywhere near the same level of charisma. In just the opening moments of the first episode, Neal is an entertaining, quirky character whose cockeyed smile simply hypnotizes those around him.

The fact that Neal literally negotiates his own release from prison with a quick tip-off to the man who caught him, Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) is pretty darn cool. Their relationship is revealed a never-ending cat-and-mouse chase, where neither regards the other as a villain or true enemy but rather as a friendly nemesis. They don’t interact with each other in a hostile way, joking about how Peter apprehended Neal or how Neal managed to elude him for so long. Peter delights in reminding Neal that he’ll be happy to put him away for life if he even thinks of running, and Neal is happy to pretend that he’s ready to bolt. Their episode-ending search-and-seizure is therefore all the more clever and impressive because they actually make a good team.

This is a fun first episode, but it’s not a clear indicator of what the show will be like. There will likely no longer be a threat of Neal running from this point forward, and Neal and Peter will continue to help each other out in their respective lives while solving major white collar crimes together. The stars are more than competent and their chemistry together is terrific. While Neal’s quick finding of some highly discounted massive real estate is a tad more than reminiscent of what happened with Hank in the series premiere of “Royal Pains,” it’s not detrimental. That show turned out pretty well, and I suspect this one may too.

How will it work as a series? The back-and-forth between the cop and the criminal should prove more than entertaining, and they shouldn’t run out of cases anytime soon. The lingering thread of Neal’s disappeared girlfriend should allow for an occasional distraction from the potential repetitiveness of fraud crimes one after another. I think the superb cast and token USA laidback nature should keep this show fresh for a long time.
How long will it last? USA has had many hits recently, and relatively new offerings “Psych,” “Burn Notice,” “In Plain Sight,” and “Royal Pains” all caught on right away. This show meshes well with its timeslot companion “Monk,” and it’s a perfect fit for USA’s brand. Especially considering the extensive promotional material aired in the past few months, I imagine this show will find success and soon be renewed for a second season.

Pilot grade: B+

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