‘White Collar’: Another Score on USA’s TV Bedpost

Posted: October 20, 2009 in interviews, what to watch, white collar

White Collar

USA Network is a on roll. There’s no denying it. Their last offering, White Collar, seems poised to continue the trend.

The series, premiering this Friday, Oct. 23, at 10 p.m. with limited commercials, is a fun, light buddy caper hour starring Tim DeKay (Carnivàle, Tell Me You Love Me, Everwood), Matt Bomer (Chuck, Traveler), Tiffani Thiessen (Beverly Hills, 90210) and Willie Garson (Sex and the City). As if that wasn’t enough, the pilot also features Diahann Carroll and the ubiquitous Mark Sheppard. Still not drooling over this cast? Well, The Middleman‘s Natalie Morales was recently promoted to series regular after a two-episode guest spot.

The plot of White Collar is simple: Neal Caffrey (Bomer), a con artist specializing in forgeries and sitting in jail, makes a deal with Peter Stokes (DeKay), an FBI agent specializing in white collar crimes and putting Neal in jail. He’ll help Peter solve crimes in exchange for being released into Peter’s custody.

But Neal is out for more than just freedom or a good can. He’s searching for his wife, Kate, who’s disappeared from the home they used to share.

“What motivates Neal, certainly throughout the first season, is love and his search for the love of his life,” said Bomer during a conference call earlier this month.

Neal’s search for Kate will play out over the course of the first season. In the meantime, he’ll be helping Peter catch white collar criminals and will find himself bonding with the FBI agent. At the crux of the show is the relationship between Peter and Neal.

“We really respect each other’s intelligence,” Bomer said of the characters. “It’s not like Tim is the bumbling FBI agent, and I’m the genius con artist. We’re both, hopefully, the smartest guys in the room.”

“They can tell that the other one is very good at solving a problem, be it a crime, a caper or puzzle,” DeKay added. “They don’t necessarily look at it from the same way, but they both realize they each love the hunt.” More than that, “These two guys like each other.”

Peter’s wife Elizabeth, played by Thiessen, will also get more involved with the cases in future episodes.

“She helps him look at problems that he has in his work through different lenses,” DeKay said.

White Collar isn’t so much about crimes of blood and violence like so many of today’s crime procedurals.

“I like that it’s solving a caper almost more than a crime,” said DeKay. “There’s a snap to it all. There’s hardly any violence.”

The caper comparison is not without merit. There’s a cleverness and chase to the series, as well as many ’60s style and Rat Pack references, that recalls films like Ocean’s 11 and Catch Me If You Can, a favorite of creator Jeff Eastin. Bomer told Entertainment Weekly that he read the book Catch Me is based on as research, in addition to watching The Sting and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

DeKay and Bomer have great chemistry that permeates the series with breezy fun and genuine emotion. The smarts, wit and respect between them helps keep the show fresh and punchy even though the premise is familiar. Here’s hoping DeKay, a TV veteran, has finally found a series that will give him the kind of longterm employment that his talent deserves. Bomer, who had a recurring role on Chuck (read about his chances of coming back to that series here), has a suave charm befitting the stylish Sy Devore suits he wears. His Neal is so easily able to charm his way into a penthouse pad, I found myself saying, “Oh, he’s good,” more than once during the pilot.

So good, USA Network just might have yet another hit on its hands. Both Bomer and DeKay couldn’t be happier to be on the cable network and on a series with a thirteen episode arc.

“I’m over the moon about it. The motto of the network is, ‘Characters Welcome,’ which for an actor is a dream come true,” Bomer said. “They’ve been so supportive of us. It’s not like they do fifteen pilots a year. They’ve really taken the time to nurture us and get behind us.”

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