Wednesday, January 20, 2010

White Collar, "Hard Sell": Comic book guy

I'm taking some time off post-press tour, but even if I wasn't, I don't know that I'd have much to say about last night's return of "White Collar." Neither the explanation for the December cliffhanger nor the boiler room case that Neal and Peter worked interested me all that much. The show still feels like it's missing some crucial element that's keeping it from living up to Tim DeKay and Matthew Bomer's performances and chemistry with each other.

What did you think?

20 comments:

TC said...

The writing is just off. It's too cliche, stilted...something. Maybe it's not as smart as I want it to be? I enjoy watching, though, so I hope it gets better.

Rocephin said...

I agree that the boiler room case was pretty lame, but I liked the resolution of the cliffhanger. I was particularly pleased that they did not try to artifically generate angst-- I kept expecting Peter's explanation to be pre-empted by a host of artificial plot elements so that the distrust could linger throughout half the season. Instead, they used the cliffhanger well- to show how much Neal has come to rely/trust Peter (have we ever seen Neal really upset other than when he thinks Peter is working against him?) just as Peter has come to trust Neal.

That being said, while I enjoy the show, I agree that there is something missing to push it to that next level. Perhaps it is that the personal stakes for the characters are minimal. I mean, the worst that happens to Peter is that he does not solve a case, and unlike the start of the show, I no longer feel like Neal is in imminent jeopardy of returning to jail.

Michelle said...

I think the big plotline would work better for me if Kate were at all interesting as a character.

Frederick said...

Alan,

White Collar is what? 8-10 episodes in and already has a better underlying plot arc and more at stake than Chuck appears to which you seem to drool over (see my comments on my foray into that show at the end of your most recent Chuck novel).

Did I love the explanation for the meeting between Peter and Kate , no. (Mild Spoiler Next) But it was solid enough to point to a bigger underlying conspiracy, create some additional tension and mistrust between the main characters, have Neal question if he was being played by Kate all along and set up a story where we should see Neal in his full glory go off the reservation to get the amber music box back.

I have to say USA is doing a far better job than the main networks are in how solid the shows continue to be. Human Target was almost unwatchable in its first episode, and Chuck has a huge identity crises as a show it needs to resolve before it will be able to draw more consistent viewers in.

As far as the boiler room episode - ok, not great story, just the typical all NY finance guys are bad ripped from the headlines BS, but done well enough. Really like this show and love its potential.

Frederick said...

Oh - one BIG issue with the episode - Neal's pic was on the front page of the paper - then they send him out UNCOVER the next day? I think the edit room missed that one. bad miss by the show runners.

Anonymous said...

theres a reason chuck gets low ratings. white collar is a better show

DeeTV said...

I am quickly losing interest in this show...For me, I think a big part of the problem is I don't really care for Matthew Bomer.

A big premise of the show is how charismatic and charming he's supposed to be. And it just doesn't work for me. Yeah, he's good looking, but he's just too pretty boy and too "perfect". I guess that's what they want the character to be, but for me, it's too generic and too much like a watching a model on a runway. Plus, I think he's a terrible actor.

I like the other lead, I cant' remember his name. I think he's a much better actor and much more interesting, but not enough to make me come back for more.

Kristi said...

I was glad to see that they didn't drag out the whole "is Peter a bad guy" cliffhanger that they ended with last year. However, the re-enactment scene when Peter and Kate meet felt a little off. I don't know how to explain what I mean- I guess it just seemed as if part of that scene was meant to establish in words what most of us already knew- that Peter had come to think of Neal not only as a good guy, but also a friend.

kimshum said...

This episode...had problems.

To my mind, a big problem was the continuous repetition of things we already knew. Again and again, characters repeated things anyone with a brain should know. It was most obvious with Peter's explanation of Neal-is-the-guy-you-want to the other agent at the beginning, but everyone else did it, too. Jones had his pronouncement that Neal has 5 minutes of air (which we heard 3 or 4 times before) as Neal's losing oxygen. So glad he took the time to explain that to us. The entire Kate-Peter flashback scene was exposition (and there were other problems there, too, like the nonsensical ring-wearing), so what should have been an engaging scene became dull.

Expository dialogue treats the audience like we're dumb. They're so busy making really, super sure that we get the premise, it makes the show drag. It also eats up time that could otherwise be used for character development. AND it undercuts the suspense, as with Lauren's detailed explanation about the CEO ruse.

I just wish the show would stop talking down to the audience and instead focus on telling a good story. If they're so worried we don't understand that Neal's a conman with a heart of gold, put a 'previously on' sequence up top and use script pages to tell a story that makes us care about the characters.

mac35 said...

Interesting. I thought this was a very strong overall episode that was able to satisfactorily resolve the cliffhanger from the finale without killing the best part of the show (the Neal/Peter relationship).

shara says said...

I tried to watch White Collar, and I gave it a few episodes, but i was just bored. It lacks substance as well as heart - and in order to hook me, it would have to have at least one of those elements... Plus I have literally no interest in white collar crime, or the people who commit such crimes. To steal my favorite Weevil quote from Veronica Mars, "You know how I feel about white collar crime!"

My husband is still watching White Collar, although he also thinks its pretty "lite" - not a lot going on, not a lot of substance or depth, and the characters aren't very relatable.

JasonR said...

I was okay with the cliffhangar explanation. It was a bit clunky and out of place - it should have taken place back in the first five or so episodes as Neal and Peter are working out the kinks in their arrangement, not after they had developed a trust with each other.

Ultimately, the show is missing something, but I like the chemistry of the leads and will continue to watch fow now.

medrawt said...

I'm glad the cliffhanger was set aside at the end of the episode (and especially glad that the Idiot Ball wasn't in effect; when Peter said "listen to everything before you react," that's what Neal did, and so we have resolution), but I'm still upset at it in the first place, because it seemed so explicitly manipulative, and was so immediately undone. Before the last five minutes of the 2009 finale, the audience had come to suspect that Fowler was involved with the Kate situation. And then we were supposed to be thrown into a tizzy, because maybe it was Peter! And now one episode later, we're back exactly where we were five minutes before the end of the previous episode. So what was the point to all that other than making me think the one thing I liked about the show was in jeopardy of being undermined? The new information (almost definitely an FBI agent, but the ring can't be used as definitive ID because all FBI vets have one) is fine, but didn't need to be introduced in this way.

Hell, you could've teased exactly the same scene between Peter and Kate from the 2009 finale, but without the heavy-handed ring shot, and it would've been more interesting - added a wrinkle without suggesting a red herring that undermined the whole appeal of the show.

But I enjoy watching Bomer and DeKay talk to each other (I really like the chemistry between them, though I wonder how much DeKay is pulling the weight), so I guess I'll keep watching.

Dee said...

I would tune in to just watch Matt Bomer read the phone book...he's so handsome and Neal is a great "character" as USA would say. Thankfully this show is enjoyable and clever and a lot better than the phone book.

wallwriting said...

I think the missing piece viewers are feeling is any emotional stake in what goes on week-to-week. It feels like they have a beautiful chess board but are just moving pieces around without any purpose.

Most cases of the week have no connection to the central story arc. Without that grounding, and without anything else to take its place, there are no stakes for us to care about. If they fail a case, what does it matter? They'll throw in a line every now and then saying "If we fail, Neil, you're going back to jail," but that feels a bit cheap and insincere.

I'm grounded in Chuck because his friends and family are in danger if the bad guys win. Burn Notice, when it's working, makes me feel like each case is being manipulated in some way by a grander hand in the shadows.

Steph said...

I couldn't disagree more, Allen. Within the framework of what a USA show is supposed to be, White Collar isn't an overly 'blue sky fantasty' and that's what makes it more fun to watch. It's got humor, comedy, drama and a great cast (not to mention the authenticy it lends to the show when the average Joe learns how a "boiler room" case comes together, or when the writing invokes something like the amber room built for Catherine the Great).

Collar has a basic formula, yes, but I can't help but tip my cap to creator Jeff Eastin for going outside the comfort zone so early in the season.

I thought the cliffhanger, while not overly original, was well done and ramped up the personal stakes for the main players.

I also find the chemistry between DeKay and Bomer to be the one thing that got me hooked on the show. That the writing (and the capers) have improved week-to-week, and I thought last night's episode was the strongest of the season.

Sarah D. Bunting said...

I'm still liking the show, but I'm having trouble caring about Kate or anything to do with her -- the character hasn't been developed much, and the actress as cast doesn't jibe with how strongly Neal feels about her (plus she just looks too much like Thiessen -- they couldn't have found a blonde? some difference in the face? they're all out of actresses in TV Land now?).

It's not really credible that Neal would love a woman this blank; if they can't undo the casting, it's time to light a fire under the Kate/Fowler "mystery," about which I could give a crap, and write them both off the show. WC does some things well, but execution on this McGuffin is not one of those things. Call an audible and move on.

Matt Stechel said...

gotta agree with the last comment--Kate is waaay too bland a character for Neal to be feeling so passionate for-i get the show needs a throughline for the season---a reason why he busted out of jail in the first place---but Kate just feels sooo arbitrary or empty a reason---i really hope when they come back with a full 2nd season that they'll either write her off or make her more of an actual character---

like the show a great deal to my surprise---it is to be fair no burn notice--but its pretty darn entertaining (its kind of like Leverage in that way--its fun to watch and the characters are both fun to spend an hour with and quite charming enough and the hour goes by surprisingly quickly--they're both very smooth and well done shows when they're on their game---and i love that! but unlike burn notice its def not something i absolutely have to go out of my way to see right this instant if there's new eps up and running--but as someone who is nashing his teeth at the current state of network tv--its nice to see this nice deft escapist tv that the networks used to excel in somewhere on the dial at least!

skittledog said...

Sometimes I feel like I have my own special demographic when reading comments... disclaimer, then: I love both Chuck and White Collar, but couldn't get into Burn Notice at all. Oh and I loved Veronica Mars above all things. So there, now that we're clear I must obviously disagree with everyone else...

I enjoyed this episode. I'm glad they cleared the stupid cliffhanger up fast, even if I wish they'd never bothered in the first place. You could have had the exact same storyline without us seeing that scene of Peter and the ring, and it would have been fairly clever and well-executed. With that scene, it was just overly manipulative for my taste.

That said, I loved Neal's hurt about Peter's assumed betrayal, and how that played out under the confines of onlookers and being undercover. I loved that they both basically came clean with each other (well, 90% at least). And I loved that Bryce Larkin got to still beat Chuck at something by getting the nicest "I don't like guns but" line of the week (barring Casey's).

I would never say White Collar is a better show than Chuck, but weirdly enough I would be more upset if bad writing were to ruin the Peter/Neal friendship for me than I would be if the same thing happened to Chuck/Sarah. So they're doing something right. (Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay, I think it's called...)

gajaitin1@fastmail said...

I agree with pretty much everything skittledog said. I don't get Burn Notice--the lead actor is just awful--and Veronica Mars rocked.

I wonder if what people don't like about White Collar is its lack of realism. It seems as if the Neal character, if he were drawn realistically, would be something of a sociopath. How can any normal person be so smooth and charming? But he's not, and we're meant to like him.

I see it as a fun, formula show that is interesting mainly because of the relationships and the pretty scenery. Sort of like "Leverage."