Friday, October 23, 2009

Tune-in alert: White Collar

I didn't get an opportunity to review USA's "White Collar" (which debuts tonight at 10) for the paper, but it's a fun show, a solid addition to USA's stable.

The short version: Tim DeKay ("Carnivale," "Tell Me You Love Me") is a brilliant FBI agent specializing in white collar crime, and Matthew Bomer (Bryce Larkin from "Chuck") is an equally brilliant (if not moreso) white collar criminal sprung from prison by DeKay (the only man who ever caught him) to help crack a case. It's a little bit "Catch Me If You Can" (Bomer even gets to wear a bunch of Rat Pack-era suits), a little bit "48 Hours"/"Hardcastle & McCormick," and DeKay and Bomer play well off each other. In a particularly nice touch for the genre, there's no attempt to manufacture phony tension or dislike between the two of them, because these guys are too smart to waste their time on that.

It's not perfect. Tiffani Thiessen isn't particularly well-used as DeKay's wife, there's some odd shuffling going on with the actresses playing DeKay's junior FBI partner (Marsha Thomason in the pilot, Natalie Morales from "The Middleman" starting next week), and I liked the pilot more than next week's episode. But it definitely feels like something that's going to be in my rotation for a while.

I'll try to bump this post up tonight after the episode finishes - which should be around 11:12, due to a long running time - so you can discuss it more after you've seen it.

45 comments:

Mary said...

I am so excited by the premiere of White Collar. I am a big fan of USA's brand of show and they do know how to build characters out of standard rehash so it somehow seems fresh. Loved Bomer on Chuck (actually the Chuck pedigree carries weight on most things) and one of my big tv sorrows was the cancellation of The Middleman so Natalie Morales get an automatic pass also. I agree the lack of anger and manufactured tension in the previews I have watched seems much more natural. I hope it is a hit like Burn Notice and Royal Pains and I am really hoping that Sharona coming back to Monk brings extra eyes to the Network to give this a boost.

JanieJones said...

I have seen the pilot and I give it a thumbs up. Alan, I agree with your assessment regarding Thiessen. She doesn't present herself comfortably. I thought it an odd choice for DeKay's wife.
I am looking forward to this show. I have high hopes.

amy said...

Yaay Dubbie! This gets a viewing based just on her participation, but darn, when is Matt Keeslar getting a new show already?

marenamoo said...

Alan,

Do you know if Morales is going to replace the probie in the pilot or is she going to be a new character?

Alan Sepinwall said...

New character.

marenamoo said...

I just saw a promo for it on Youtube and Mark Sheppard is going to be in an episode (is that a spoiler?). I guess this is part of the Mark Sheppard full employment act".

Hatfield said...

That's the second USA show to replace a female cop after the pilot; I believe Psych did it too.

I'm excited for this because of my man crush on DeKay. He was my favorite character on Carnivale (which I think I liked quite a bit more than anyone else I know), and was crushed when his chracter turned out to be guilty on a guest spot on NCIS. Yeah, I take this WAYYYYYYYY too seriously. Thanks for reminding us it's on!

Maura said...

I'll check it out tonight. Unless the first episode is seriously sucky, I expect to give it a chance. I'm happy to hear that there's no anger/tension between the two leads. Even on USA, which has done a terrific job of providing a fresh take on TV cliches, I can do without it.

I'm not much of a Thiessen fan (I don't hate her. She just bores me), so it's no surprise that's she a weak spot.

Hatfield said...

I'm excited for this because of my man crush on DeKay. He was my favorite character on Carnivale (which I think I liked quite a bit more than anyone else I know), and was crushed when his chracter turned out to be guilty on a guest spot on NCIS. Yeah, I take this WAYYYYYYYY too seriously.

Heh. I totally get that. I'm the same way about Joel Gretsch. I hate it when he's the bad guy. Except I obviously can't have a man crush on him, what with me being female and all.

Anonymous said...

I got to see the screener and really enjoyed it -- planning on watching the pilot again, and not just to see what if any changes were made. The show's the typical USA style of fun.

Bummed they're changing the junior partner, as one of my favorite lines in the screener had to do with her.

Alan Sepinwall said...

one of my favorite lines in the screener had to do with her.

I suspect I know to which line you refer, and I'll try to post that in comments after I bump this thing up tonight.

(And because I'll probably be going to sleep before 11:12, there may be a period where the post is offline.)

Michael G. said...

That was pretty fun. It doesn't come on at a particularly good time, but there's always Hulu.

Even though he was Chuck's "nemesis," I loved Bomer on that show, one of my favorite characters.

BigTed said...

Eh... I didn't buy any of this, and the counterfeiting plot was boring.

I imagine Marsha Thomason was let go because she sounded strange doing an American accent... they should have just let her stay a Brit.

But as long as we're talking about "The Middleman," we should point out the appearance in this pilot episode of guest villain extraordinaire Mark Sheppard, aka Manservant Neville.

dez said...

I liked it well enough to come back next week. Matthew Bomer's very appealing, and I liked his relationship with Tim DeKay's agent. Tiffani Thiessen can leave anytime, though.

XanxiuZ said...

Big Ted Said...
I imagine Marsha Thomason was let go because she sounded strange doing an American accent... they should have just let her stay a Brit.

Eh, more than likely, they realized that they had made Agent Lancing a big gay, didn't know how to deal with it, and decided not to go there. Whatevs, par for the American TV course.

cgeye said...

I thought the change to Morales was for these reasons:

A) The pilot had a near-historic use of Negro women in unpredictable, non-criminal/cranky bureaucrat roles. They had chunky speaking parts, were well integrated into the action, and had different emotional shadings. Of course, this could not stand, so if they had to choose between Miss Diahann Carroll, the stupefying hot granddaughter model babe, or the functional lipstick lesbo, all of whom have the same good-hair class markers -- ditch the probie.

B) That lipstick a lesbian so smoothly integrated into law enforcement isn't a full reality yet. There's still pressure towards butchness, and a probie agent with that fine a hair care regimen I'd suspect of being on the pad. In short, the character needed more backstory than just being a perfect Negro functionary who happens to chat up TSA guards while an unfrisked henchman assassinates someone in her custody. *Sigh*

C) As said above, WC is several Negroes deep with promising characters, but absolutely no Hispanic cast members? In NYC? If this isn't some fool Vancouver production with a Manhattan gloss, they'd better correct that imbalance so as not to run into the Hispanic Whore #3 problem. They avoided black stereotypical characters (even their crack ho, blessedly, had no lines), so they need to step up now to free themselves to have Hispanic baddies.

D) It's *Dub-Dub*. C'mon....

One more thing -- there wasn't one moment I disliked Matthew Bomer, and considering the time I spent hating Bryce on CHUCK, I'm frankly shocked that happened. Did anyone get a free Pink shirt at Rockefeller Center? USA was handing them out....

Alan Sepinwall said...

Yeah, my guess is that someone wanted there to be sexual tension between Bomer and DeKay's female partner, and the "She'd rather be wearing the hat" conversation got in the way of that.

WWWeaves said...

cgeye, I suspect you've nailed the multiple issues. And, given a choice between preserving a young, beautiful, talented African-british actress who will be working again in five minutes and a woman of color of a certain age. I'm very glad they went with Ms. Carroll. I'm approaching a certain age myself, and despite my lack of pigment I am always glad to see a woman my age or older look good on TV.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the pilot. In addition to the welcome lack of artificial tension between the two lead characters, I appreciated that the show makes it clear that they're just as smart as the other - it's not a case of a super clever criminal who's just playing with bumbling law enforcement (except for the supermax guards). I mean, I get that the show wouldn't work otherwise, but I like that they went out of their way to show it, since so often it's the charming criminal who's the genius (see: the Ocean's catalogue). However, I didn't quite get all the Harvard refs - seemed unnecessary/ineffective.

All the scenes with Tiffani (Amber) Thiessen read a little weird to me, almost like dream scenes of a now-dead wife. Still, looking forward to how this show progresses!

Otto Man said...

So the new banner theme shouldn't be too hard to figure out?

Looks like we have Oscar Madison, Buffy Summers, Tim Riggins, and Karen Sisco. ...

Yeah, I got nothing.

Victor Spoils said...

Characters from shows that were originally movies.

Sophietje said...

Oh man, I forgot to ask about the previous banner in time: I recognized that they were Freaks and Geeks gals, but I don;t know who one of them was. I got Busy Phillips, Linda Cardillini, and the chick from Tru Blood and Party Down. Who was the 4th?

bill said...

Enjoyable show. Ended up watching it back to back with the most recent Flashforward. Which also has a lesbian FBI agent. Need one more show to make this a trend.

Nicole said...

CSIS (or as the show calls it Canadian Secret service) is actually quite a joke in real life, so I can't say that I was initially impressed with Neal/Bryce's super criminal skills, since it was probably available on the internet.

But the first episode was watchable and I do like Natalie Morales, so I hope that the switch isn't too distracting.

I think the writers don't know what to do with TT as the wife, but maybe they can give her a job or something so that she does more than call him all the time.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Characters from shows that were originally movies.

Specifically, characters from shows that were originally movies, where the show somehow didn't suck.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Who was the 4th?

Joanna Garcia.

Otto Man said...

Characters from shows that were originally movies.

Cripes, I feel dense. Thanks.

zodin2008 said...

Excellent pikot, perfetc fit in the USA lineup. An excellent "companion" piece to "Burn Notice".

Totally agree on Tiffani Thiessen - bizarre casting for the role of his wife.

cgeye said...

The Harvard refs were gratuitous and stoopid.

In NYC, he'd be dissing Columbia and NYU grads harder, and the larger issues -- damn whippersnapper agents with they booklearnin' and no street skillz -- seems absurd when the bulk of white collar crimes require a forensic accountancy approach. Do I want every top-flight MBA I can get on my team, working for The Man to fight their scumbag classmates? Hells, yeah -- so I wouldn't diss them to their face so much that they shrug their shoulders when Skip from Econ 1030 asks if we can leave his firm out of the probe. Sheesh.

FBI guys are notorious in law enforcement for being the Booklearnin' fools.

The premise of this show should be like ROYAL PAINS -- just because we don't see an ER in a bad nabe or a nasty waterfront drug bust doesn't mean great damage is done by those rich enough to look clean while doing evil. Having the lead cop beg for people with more of a street attitude defeats that premise, because, frankly, he's as street as Martha Stewart before incarceration.

As for Ms. Thiessen, I betcha 60 percent of the criticism's due to the psychic whiplash of A) she's older and of normal American female size and B) she's still so hot that the How In The Hell? response kicks in, about how this still-thoughtless workaholic married her.

His lies about coming home are predictable (when a felon notices this, and DeKay has to *search their house for clues about what she likes and Patriot Act her eBay bids*, THIS IS A DIVORCE-LEVEL PROBLEM); they have a dog as well-fed and neglected as she; and we don't know even if she works, which on his "I'm an honest man on a budget" in NYC rap, is damned peculiar. I haven't seen such character underdevelopment for the female lead since the 80s, and that usually was for a housewife in a sitcom.

Unless WC wants to critique the homely man/stunning woman sitcom trope (which would be awesome, if they did -- what happens to the babe when a clever guy wins her, then sets her on the shelf?), they need to give her a life -- not the *problem* of her life, but a life that goes on when the menfolk are away. Betty Draper has it better than this chick, and that's saying a lot.

verif: graph.
A real word? Huh.

Anonymous said...

So...isn't this just a remake of "It Takes a Thief"?

cgeye said...

Well, yeah, sure.

Just that Bomer can profit from the intervening decades of Dry Look hair technology. That, and he can wear suits that rock the look before Robert Wagner's. Turtlenecks.(shudder)

Brandy said...

I don't think there was a lot to the wife character. But I think more could have been made from the role if the actress (TAT or somebody else) had played those few moments with some resentment.

Tijmen said...

Hey Alan, first time commenter here - been lurking & reading since your Kurt Sutter interview though. I tried White Collar based on your review and can go along with the general buzz of a solid show with potential for more, but...

...I thought making the MacGuffin a 1944 War Bond in support of the 'Spanish Underground' against the Axis INCREDIBLY STUPID. Considering the fact that Spain was *neutral* during WW2, and any underground 'round those parts would've been anti-Franco and not openly supported by the US (you know, so as to not antagonize Spain into the Axis camp), this just really smacked of lazy, lazy writing to me and yanked me out of the story. Instead of a suave conman and his hardnosed handler getting info from a bonafide egghead, all of a sudden I was watching two attractive actors and a geeky one spout nonsense word-strings at each other.

Is it nitpicky to not want history, recent history of some importance like WW2 and its particulars, be rewritten so casually? I'm surprised nobody else noticed/found it worth mentioning.

Mrglass said...

The show looks and "feels" great, but it is a bit worrying that in the pilot, the con is far-fetched and the plot full of holes (see many comments above). Is there an ex-thief consulting on this show, like an ex-spy on 'Burn Notice'?

Plus, the only one who is really doing police work and advancing the investigation is the shady associate, out of sight. No need for super-smart heroes if all they do is whine about their girlfriends, while some other guy is doing the work.

Nicole said...

I just realized why DeKay seemed so familiar but that none of the shows Alan mentioned were ones that I had watched.... He was the linguist in one of my favourite old school Cupid episodes. So that's another reason for me to watch.

zodin2008 said...

I second Nicole. I like Tim DeKay but didn't have any interest in either watching "Carnivale" and "Tell Me You Love Me".

M.A.Peel said...

Anon, I thought about "It Takes a Thief" too. Vaguely remember being confused that Fred Astaire wasn't dancing.

Back to now. Is someone developing a series for Mark Sheppard, the coolest man on tv. Or is he doomed to some sort of strange "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" ghostly guest star drifting through every good USA Networks series.

Linda said...

White Collar is a perfect companion to Burn Notice which is a perfect companion to Monk which is a perfect companion to Psych which is perfect companion to In Plain Sight which is a perfect companion to the soon-to-be D'Onofrio-less/Erbe-less/Bogosian-less L&O:CI.

It's become a one-note network of lighthearted law/crime shows. They are all mashing together now and I'm bored.

USA used to have The Dead Zone and the 4400 which were darker dramas. D'Onofrio's CI character was always heading down a self-destructive path until USA apparently decided that it just didn't want to go here and basically just marked time this past season until Jeff Goldblum settled in.

Because of Tim DeKay I am going to watch White Collar (it's like a stab through my heart every time I see a former Carnivale cast member on another series; I know it's impossible but I keep hoping that HBO will resurrect it (and Clancy Brown).

Maura - Re: Joel Gretsch. It looks like he's on "V." Apparently he can only be cast in sci-fi shows. I guess that's what happens when you're Shatner's son-in-law.

Ian G said...

I must be the only one who actually liked TAT and enjoyed the interaction between her and DeKay. I like that they showed a happy marriage and left the conflict for the case.

Karen said...

I'm all about style over substance, I guess, because I really, really enjoyed the pilot and didn't really notice plot holes.

I thought the Bomer/McKay chemistry was considerable, and I didn't mind Tiffani Thiessen in the least.

If the rest of the series can keep up to the level of the pilot, they'll have me for good.

Yet another anonymous said...

Karen,

I'm with you. It may not be Emmy award winning TV, but it was good fun, with leads that were engaging.

I can see watching this for a while, if they can keep the weekly 'crimes' interesting. And hey, he owns him for four years, right, before the premise has to change?

amysa said...

@Karen: I noticed a plot hole here and there, but I wasn't bothered by them. I usually let a lot go in pilots if there seems to be promise, but in this case I just enjoyed it so much that it wasn't so much that I was letting it go as I just didn't care. DeKay and Bomer have crazy chemistry and there was enough funny and action and "cool" to keep me completely satisfied. I didn't mind "the wife" either. TAT did what she could with a small part and hopefully they'll give her more to do in the future. I disagree with the comment above about wishing she had showed a little resentment because the main thing I liked about the show was that all three were smart, liked each other, were relatively happy and *weren't* assholes.

Jennifer said...

I really just like Bomer and McKay no matter what they are doing.

I am still wondering HOW smart Caffrey is supposed to be here. Is he really dumb enough for love so getting out to chase the girlfriend is ALL he was up to, or is there ulterior motive beyond it? I'm really hoping there is one, because that whole thing really undermines the character's intelligence. Hopefully "he" with the ring on his hand is the reason why he was so panicked to get out.

I can't help but laugh at HOW easy it was for him to find cushy clothes and a cushy pad within what, fifteen minutes? And that Hotel Slum and the thrift store are within two miles of the fancy house? I'm not a city girl, but that sounds...off to me.

I have no objections to Tiffani as "the wife." She seems pretty nice and not insufferable. BUT...I hate, hate, hate it when someone is just there to play "the wife" and whine that hubby isn't ever hoooooome. At least the character didn't whine and Caffrey's attempts to help McKay with the anniversary dilemma were darned cute, but if all she ever does is "the wife" in every episode, I will be very annoyed.

Anonymous said...

Can someone please explain what's so weird about the wife character? Is the actress associated with something else that makes her a bad fit or something? Everyone's acting like she's the plague.

The exigent circumstance thing got me a little annoyed. Hagan is going to have an easy time in court claiming that the FBI sent Cafferey there to avoid getting a warrant.

Lionel Braithwaite said...

Didn't DeKay used to play the nasty corporate exec Larry Deon on SeaQuest?

Angela said...

Linda wrote: "White Collar is a perfect companion to Burn Notice which is a perfect companion to Monk which is a perfect companion to Psych which is perfect companion to In Plain Sight which is a perfect companion to the soon-to-be D'Onofrio-less/Erbe-less/Bogosian-less L&O:CI."

Hi! Sorry I don't know how to quote so just copied the above. I do love dark shows..so maybe this was just a needed change for me because I enjoyed this show. Odd too, because I did not like Monk, Burn Notice or In Plain Sight, (haven't seen Psych yet). I couldn't get through one hour of any of those shows, even though I tried more than once.
But why did they have to put Bryce in the mansion? They could have had more fun with the sleezy hotel living arrangement for awhile, and it would have been more real. But somehow the whole thing came together in a fairy tale sort of way.
OTOH, give me Life or Friday Night Lights to watch instead and I wouldn't think twice about it. Is it even fair to compare?