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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Boring ‘White Collar’ stigma broken with USA’s sexy new show

Published: October 30, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.

The term “white collar” gets a whole new meaning with the help of the newest show from the USA network of the same name. No longer just a description for mundane paper-pushing office jobs, “White Collar,” which made its debut last Friday, now stands for one of the sexiest and wittiest hours on TV this fall.

The show begins with Neal Caffrey, a white collar criminal convicted on bond forgery (but suspected of art theft, counterfeiting, racketeering and securities fraud, nonetheless), busting out of prison with only three months left to serve.

However, it turns out that the con man has a soft side, making a run for it in hopes of catching up with his ex-girlfriend before she disappears from his radar forever. However, his efforts come to nothing in the first episode. Peter Burke, the FBI agent who had originally arrested Neal, finds him, melancholy and alone in an abandoned apartment sentimentally contemplating a wine bottle. To avoid landing in prison for another four years, Neal strikes a deal with Peter to help him solve the crimes he used to commit—think “Ocean’s Eleven” if George Clooney’s character started working for the Feds.

Newcomer Matt Bomer leads the show as Neal and is every bit as suave and dashing as an actual conman should be. Despite his boyish good looks, Bomer is still able to play Neal with an air of cunning that makes an audience believe that even without his smoldering eyes, he would be able to talk a widow into allowing him to live in her mansion in upper Manhattan.

Balancing out Bomer is Tim DeKay as Peter Burke, who has a hint of a father-son relationship with Caffrey. DeKay plays Burke in such a way that the audience empathizes with him without pitying him and portrays his character in such a way that he is worth noting even next to the magnetic Bomer. DeKay has a bit more television drama experience behind him than his younger co-star, but it is nice to see a show headed by relative unknowns off to such a smooth start.

However, the most enjoyable thing about the interaction between these two characters is that it does not utilize the old dynamic of a super genius and a bumbling idiot. Burke and Caffrey appear to find their match in each other. Sure, Caffrey gives the insight of a criminal, but Burke more than proves that he can beat Caffrey at his own game.

Following the two male leads, there are some slightly familiar faces among the female characters. Burke’s sassy underling, Diana, is played by Marsha Thomason, last seen in an 11-episode stint of “Lost” and on “Las Vegas.” A later blast from the past is Tiffani Thiessen, best known for her roles on “Saved by the Bell” and “Beverly Hills, 90210.” Rather than being the attractive co-ed, she is Burke’s supportive wife, who in the first episode, at least blends into the background. However, hopefully the writers will make more use of her in the future and add some spice to her role.

“White Collar” is definitely a show to follow, in spite of its unfortunate scheduling on Friday nights. It provides the perfect blend of wit, personality, and plot twists to keep viewers on Caffrey’s trail.