TV Review: Entertaining ‘White Collar’ Returns For Second Season
CHICAGO – The USA network continues its plans for world domination with an all-out assault on your summer viewing schedule. With “Royal Pains” and “Burn Notice” continuing to rack up amazing ratings on Thursday nights, the network kick starts the Tuesday offensive with the return of the entertaining “White Collar,” a clever riff on timeless TV archetypes.
Television Rating: 3.5/5.0
In the first season, “White Collar” felt like a hybrid of already-established USA hits. Add a dash of international conspiracy a la “Burn Notice” to a teaspoon of buddy comedy not unlike “Psych” and cook it in the uber-wealthy world well-defined by “Royal Pains.” The second season starts with a show that now feels like it has developed a distinct, entertaining identity of its own. With confident plotting and underrated lead performances, “White Collar” is one of the quickest hours of television this season. It’s a tasty summer cocktail on Tuesday nights that will almost certainly increase its pop culture cachet in season two.
Matthew Bomer as Neal Caffrey, Tim DeKay as Peter Burke
Photo credit: Eric Leibowitz/USA
The oil-and-water duo at the core of “White Collar” are a con man and a G-man. The former is Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer of “Chuck”), a handsome, suave, blue-eyed player who can basically talk anyone into anything and has made millions in the world of art fraud and other white collar crimes. The latter is the man who caught him, Agent Peter Burke (Tom DeKay of “Carnivale”). He’s awkward, anxious, and the A-side to Caffrey’s B-side. He clearly wants justice but has also developed a undeniable friendship with Neal. The two are no longer quite as oil and water as they were at the start of the series. They’ve blended their skills into a captivating crime-solving team.
The season premiere focuses on both continuing the arcs set up by the end of the first season and setting up its own case-of-the-week. All USA shows now follow the same structure — character-driven episodes with one case that will be solved before the credits roll while an overall arc continues from episode to episode.
Matthew Bomer as Neal Caffrey
Photo credit: Eric Ogden/USA
The weekly installment involves a series of high-stakes bank robberies around the country. Neal and Peter think they have the situation under enough control that Manhattan won’t be the next city to suffer a scandalous loss but they’re matching wits with a possibly criminal businessman (Tim Matheson) who could have their number. Meanwhile, Neal is intent on figuring out who blew up the plane at the end of season one whiel Peter tries to decide if his buddy would have run if the opportunity had been there or if they’re a team even without the ankle bracelet.
“White Collar” could have easily been a ripped-from-the-headlines mystery series about the increasingly money-conscious society that the current depression has created but it’s nowhere near that concerned with real-life issues. The pacing, dialogue, and plotting have much more in common with attitude-heavy thrillers like “The Thomas Crown Affair” or “Ocean’s Eleven.” The breezy pace and clever character interaction make “White Collar” one of USA’s best-paced programs. The season premiere is over before you know it and you can’t wait to see episode two.
The best writing and directorial pacing in the world means nothing without a solid cast and DeKay and Bomer get better with every episode. What USA has truly discovered in their successful quest to be the most popular network on basic cable is that a talented pair of leads is half the battle. James Roday, Jeffrey Donovan, Mark Feuerstein — these are all actors that are easy to spend an hour with after a tough day at work. They’re cool guys who don’t look like they’re really trying to be cool. DeKay and Bomer are perfect fits in the USA arsenal.
The entire USA line-up is now comprised of series with interesting mysteries/capers that are fueled by the characters not just supported by them. And it’s worth noting that most of their programs, especially “Royal Pains” and “Burn Notice” improved and gained bigger followings in season two — something that bodes well for the sophomore season of “White Collar.” Forget “plans” for world domination. USA seems to have it already.