Preview: White Collar 1×1

It's not quite a crime, but it's not great

White Collar

In the US: Fridays, 10/9c, USA Network. Starts October 23rd

You may remember that while watching Chuck recently, you thought to yourself, “Why that dashing and handsome young Matt Bomer – who plays the possibly, possibly not evil secret agent Bryce Larkin – is so dashing and handsome, he deserves his own TV series.”

Someone at USA Network seems to have thought the same thing, because here comes White Collar, a show about just how dashing and handsome Matt Bomer is.

The ostensible plot of the series is that Bomer is one of the world’s smartest white collar criminals. Forgery, art theft, con tricks: you name it, he’s done it, although he’s only ever been caught once. When the man who caught him – FBI agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) – finds himself stumped in his hunt for another art thief, he turns to the first thief to catch his second thief.

But, in actuality, the show is merely about Bomer going around being charming to various women while looking pained because of his lost love, who appears to have run away.

Guess the intended demographic. Go on. I dare you.

USA Network presents its next new original series, WHITE COLLAR, starring Matt Bomer (“Chuck,” “Tru Calling”), Tim DeKay (“Tell Me You Love Me,” “Carnivàle”), Tiffani Thiessen (“What About Brian,” “Fastlane”) and Willie Garson (“Sex and the City,” “John from Cincinnati”). On Friday, October 23 at 10/9c, WHITE COLLAR will debut with a special episode followed by 13 one-hour episodes. The show is shot entirely on location in and around New York City.

WHITE COLLAR will launch its first episode immediately following MONK, which is currently in its eighth and final season.

WHITE COLLAR is about the most unlikely of partnerships between a con artist and an FBI agent. The story unfolds after charming criminal mastermind Neal Caffrey (Bomer) is caught by his nemesis, G-Man extraordinaire Peter Burke (DeKay). After escaping from a maximum-security prison to find his long-lost love, Neal is nabbed by Peter once again. Rather than returning to jail for this daring getaway, Neal suggests an alternate plan – providing his expertise to assist the Feds in putting away infamous and elusive criminals in return for his freedom. Thiessen plays Peter’s wife, Elizabeth, an intelligent, high-status event planner with a certain intuition of her own. Garson plays Mozzie, a friend of Caffrey’s with a strong distrust of the Feds and an unyielding belief in conspiracy theories. Diahann Carroll (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Dynasty”) guest stars in the pilot and will appear as a dynamic recurring character. WHITE COLLAR also features Sharif Atkins (“ER”), Natalie Morales (“The Middleman”) and James Rebhorn (“Book of Daniel”).

WHITE COLLAR was created and is executive produced by Jeff Eastin (“Hawaii,” “Meet the Marks”) and comes from Fox Television Studios. Bronwen Hughes (USA’s “BURN NOTICE,” “Breaking Bad,” “Forces of Nature”) directed the pilot. Clifton Campbell (“Street Time,” “Profiler”) and Tom Garrigus (“Swingtown,” “Everwood”) serve as consulting producers.

Is it any good?
Er-um. Ish. It’s somewhere in the middle between Burn Notice and In Plain Sight on the USA Network qualityometer.

By now, USA has managed to polish its “characters welcome” formula to a glistening sheen, so much so that White Collar feels entirely formulaic:

  • We have two main male characters and one long-suffering female character (Psych, Burn Notice, Royal Pains): check
  • They have a slightly friendly, slightly bantery relationship (Psych, Burn Notice, Royal Pains): check
  • They live in a non-generic, iconographic city (Psych, Burn Notice, Royal Pains): check
  • There’s crime involved (Psych, Burn Notice, Monk, In Plain Sight): check
  • Nothing too bad ever happens to the main characters despite these crimes (Monk, Psych, In Plain Sight): check

Even the name of the show White Collar suggests just how non-threatening and unlikely to have any edge the characters are.

The pilot starts off well enough with Bomer’s escape from an allegedly “Super Max” prison (it’s more likely Slightly Max, mind) and his rapid ascent through various cons to having money and a car. But then he finds his girlfriend has quit town, he gets re-arrested by DeKay, then released into his custody. Before you know it, he’s getting himself nice clothes and nice accommodation thanks to Diahann Carroll. By the end, he’s released into the FBI’s custody for four years to help them out with their investigations.

From the very beginning, you know exactly where it’s going to end up – a buddy-buddy crime-fighting show – and at very few points along the way are you surprised by what happens. DeKay is slightly smart, as are the other FBI types around him who are, of course, less smart. But he’s not smart enough to truly match wits with Bomer.

Since this is a “clashing personalities”/”buddy-buddy” show, Bomer’s charm is something DeKay doesn’t have so he’s enlisted to help DeKay work out what to get his wife for their anniversary. His wife (Tiffani Thiessen doing not much at all) is long-suffering but ultimately understanding (or else she’d leave him and that would be a little too interesting for a show called White Collar).

And Bomer has to be a truly non-threatening boy-man. He doesn’t do anything too bad, beyond borrow a few things or take a dollars from people’s pockets. He’s romantic and boyish. He doesn’t try to knife DeKay then escape so he can find his girlfriend or live a life of happiness elsewhere. He only has to go to Willie Garson every so often when he needs information, so doesn’t have to get his hands too dirty.

Even the criminals aren’t too threatening (again, it’s White Collar not Blue Collar or Heat) so no one’s really at risk – that would burst the whole cosy bubble of unreality the show inhabits, despite its best attempts to show bits of New York that aren’t too pretty.

Mitigating factors
However, as I said, they have polished it all to a shiny sheen. This is visibly a far more expensive show than
, say, or even Burn Notice, with far better production values – although given it’s a pilot, that might change by series proper.

The cast are all fine, although none of them really exude charisma or stand out from the pack much. The script may not be filled with anything too original, challenging or even plausible, but it’s not dumb either.

It’s not bad. Right now, it’s average.

The show also has room to grow. Mancunian Marsha Thomason, last seen on Lost with her own accent but here equipped with an unconvincing American accent, plays DeKay’s lesbian probationary agent – the one woman whom Bomer can’t charm. But she seems (judging by her absence from the press release and press kit) to have already been replaced with another character played by Natalie Morales of The Middlemanfame’.

Similarly, James Rebhorn (best known as the guy who supposedly runs The Game in The Game) is set to pop up as a recurring character as well.

So as we enter series proper, this clearly has a chance to become better. So I’ll see you at episode three, and let you know how’s it gone.


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.