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TV Review: White Collar – “Pilot”

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USA is turning up the heat with the premiere of White Collar, its latest original series. Since Psych takes a break from its summer run and quits just about Emmy week, a space is created which requires filling. For the record, Psych returns in January to finish up its season. Monk, on the other hand, is airing episodes each week until the series finale later this year.

Back to the new guy. White Collar is the story of Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer), a charming man with looks to match. He can persuade just about anyone to give him anything. While this works in the short run, Caffrey's efforts fall flat when he is arrested for securities fraud and the like. Jail soon follows the conviction. Keeping up with this master criminal, however, is an ongoing process.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. Matt Bomer, whose work on Chuck as CIA agent Bryce Larkin is still both loved and reviled among fans, is a serious hottie! No wonder he plays the con artist. Seeing Bomer heat up the television screen (or computer, if you prefer) is perhaps the reason more than a few viewers are going to watch this show.

When Caffrey escapes, FBI agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) is asked to help the U.S. Marshals haul Caffrey back in. Perfect! The intelligence agent finds the criminal genius. A check over prison records is easy enough, and the fugitive is found. It seems Caffrey had a visitor by the name of Kate (Alexandra Daddio). More than that, she has been involved with him romantically — at least until she breaks things off. Burke figures she is the key, and the Feds track Caffrey to Kate's apartment.

The confrontation is classic filmmaking in action. Watching Bomer and DeKay face off warily shows just how strong these two performers are. Bomer shows heartbroken so one almost feels sorry for him. DeKay shows just how good Burke is, making sure Caffrey does not have a weapon and standing far enough away so he cannot be taken by a surprise attack. As critical those parts are, though, the real story happens next.

The hunt is on to find the Dutchman, named for the way this guy disappears before anyone gets too close. The crime is simple enough — counterfeiting. A printing press is essential for the process, but the details are far too elegant to be confined to a review. You'll have to watch, but just know Mark Sheppard (Warehouse 13, Dollhouse) fits into the grand scheme of things.

When the Fed and the con artist team up to solve crimes created by upper class criminals, it is for different reasons entirely. Caffrey wants life outside of prison bars, so he'll do anything he has to. Burke understands that a partner who can work from the inside has advantages. Burke looks and acts like the federal cop he is, which means nobody is about to let him on on the dirty secrets.

If the rest of the season is anything like the premiere, USA will see a ratings boost from faithful viewers who will turn in each week. The pairing of Bomer and Dekay works for the most part. As with any new show, there are some kinks to be worked out. For example, the writing is a tad stilted. With time, it will hopefully be made much smoother. I enjoyed the song "Hold On I'm Coming" in the background signifying Neal's escape and a warning to the criminals he brings down. Whatever played during Neal's descent on the staircase did not quite seem to fit, even if it was "classic Rat Pack" as stated.

Willie Garson and Tiffani Thiessen round out the cast to add flavor. Garson plays Mozzie, Neal's friend who refuses to trust the Feds but is essential to Neal. Mozzie reminds me of a mouse who keeps getting thrown out the door, and so is determined each time to return and stay for good. Thiessen is Elizabeth, the wife of Peter Burke, and brings a touch of home as a balance to the tricky world of catching criminals. Diahann Carroll is rumored to be a recurring guest star, whose June owns the manor where Neal ends up living. Told ya this guy was good!

Tune in Fridays at 10pm for all new episodes of White Collar. For more information on the show, go to the White Collar website.

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