White collar crime: a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation. You may recognize this particular breed of felony from Steven Spielberg’s popular film, ‘Catch Me if You Can.” If you got that far, you’ve pretty much got the idea of USA’s newest crime procedural, ‘White Collar.”
Creator Jeff Eastin drops us into the middle of the action as criminal Neal Caffery changes out of his orange jumpsuit into the guard uniform. We watch as Caffery strides out of the maximum security prison without so much as breaking a sweat.
Within the first 10 minutes, however, Caffery is caught by FBI Agent Peter Stokes (Tim DeKay), the only man who ever caught him to begin with. Stokes-2, Caffery-0.
But when Caffery shows Agent Stokes what the FBI has to gain by letting him aid in criminal investigations, Caffery is set free from prison with the highest tech GPS tracking device law enforcement can buy.
And thus the foundation for USA’s newest characters is built. In the elegant series premiere, director Bronwen Hughes (‘Burn Notice”) provides a thought provoking, catchy and stylistic premise. The show is set in modern New York City, but the retro costuming, courtesy of the late husband of Caffery’s host June (Diahann Caroll), gives the feel of a show relishing the past.
But it isn’t Caffery’s rat pack style fedora or even the beautiful NYC skyline that makes the show so immediately likable. It is the brilliant casting of Bomber and DeKay.
‘White Collar” doesn’t force any tension between the two, which tends to happen between partners in procedurals. They accept one another in spite of who they are: a criminal and a crime fighter. Bomber does a particularly great job portraying a character that you trust despite his past. His roguish good looks, devilish charm and criminal smarts make him a protagonist worth watching.
Throughout the course of the relatively fast-paced pilot, Eastin provides dead-on dialogue with dramatic twists and payoffs that keep the show moving forward. When Caffery’s GPS goes off several times, it is not because he has taken off as the audience will assume. Instead, he is found in the living room of Stokes’s home and in a position that helps solve the crime they were fighting the whole time.
Alongside the case-of-the-week quality that every procedural has, we learn that Caffery’s escape from prison was not just a rebellious act, but a plan hatched after his girlfriend broke up with him under mysterious circumstances. With the help of his somewhat sketchy and very entertaining contact Mozzie (Willie Garson of ‘Sex and the City”), the mythology and long running story of ‘White Collar” is set up.
It is worth acknowledging that the show does not try to make Caffery a character he is not. The first thing he tries to do upon greeting Mozzie is learn if he can break out of his big-brother style GPS. He is, after all, a criminal.
When failure ensues, he figures he might as well take what he’s got while it’s good and use the tools at his disposal to his advantage. It is a smart and clever move by Eastin and a tribute to Bomber’s acting, as to how well Caffery’s character is developed through only the first hour of the series. The one storyline that felt out of place was the relationship between Stokes and his wife Debbie (Tiffani Thiessen). While Stokes’s personal life makes some great banter with his new colleague Caffery, the story seems to be a distraction.
In spite of this one seeming plot hole, USA appears to have created another winner. ‘White Collar” fits in very well alongside their lineup of character-driven shows. With the ridiculous number of crime procedurals on the air, it is refreshing to see a show that presents itself in a quirky, original and stylish manner. Pop your collar, grab some cash, and get running, because if you don’t, Stokes and Caffery are sure to catch you before you bat an eyelash.
‘White Collar” airs on USA at 10 p.m. on Fridays.
Rosenberg is a member of
the class of 2012.