Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"White Collar" -- Who Says You Can't Regurgitate a Plot?

In keeping with the Hollywood tendency to beat a genre to death, USA has introduced a new series to attract the audience that's already watching TNT's Levearage. White Collar, starring Matt Bomer, (Bryce Larkin from "Chuck"), and Tim DeKay is really, really similar to "Leverage." The only missing so far is the group dynamic. Dekay stars as FBI agent Peter Burke, who has a knack for catching con man Neil Caffrey (Bomer). After Caffrey escapes prison to see his estranged girlfriend, and is thrown back in by Burke, he offers tantalizing clues to a case Burke is working on and offers to help catch the criminals in the new case if he is given a conditional release. Like "Leverage," the idea is that no one is better than catching a crook than another criminal. I decided to watch "White Collar" because I find the genre entertaining and I like everything from "The Sting" to the "Italian Job." There's nothing better than watching the friendly con-artist take down the scary bad guy. The reason I say "White Collar" is like "Leverage" is because I think they were based on almost identical dynamics. "Leverage," for those who haven't seen it, stars Timothy Hutton as Nate Ford, a former insurance investigator who was screwed over by the company he used to work for, resulting in the death of his son. When an opportunity arises for Nate to get some well deserved payback from his former employers, he takes it and recruits some criminals he used to chase in his former occupation. In the course of the job Nate and the crew he hired realize they worked well together and they decide to stay in the business of helping those who have been treated poorly but have no legal or financial leverage on their own. Each episode features a new problem that requires the not-so-legal skills of the team, and Nate's ability to corral their unlawful impulses. "White Collar" is basically the same idea, only instead of a group of criminal masterminds, the show has one. And guess what? I liked it. What makes "White Collar" work despite its derivative nature are the two main characters-- or rather, the actors that play them. Tim Dekay, who plays FBI agent Peter Burke, is one of those guys you've seen a hundred times but can't place. He's been in everything from "Seinfeld" to "Party of Five," but he's never been in a star-making role. I don't know if this is the one, but he's terrific. I expected DeKay to fade into the background when Bomer is on camera because Bomer is such a striking looking guy, and believe me, they make the most of the guy's pretty face. But DeKay does such a good job of portraying a guy smart enough to keep track of a slippery genius. Like most stereotypical cops, Burke's character is a by-the-book guy; at least so far. I especially like the moment when he tells Caffrey that his slick, get-a-big-payoff-for-very-little-effort attitude is not the way the world works and sooner or later, it'll backfire. Bomer, despite the set-up as the star of the show, actually may take the backseat to McKay-- though it's too soon to tell. If that ends up being the case, then I will have to give credit to Bomer for not being the scene-stealing pretty boy he could have been. I don't know if I'll go into con-artist burnout, what with "Burn Notice," and "Psych" also being in my regular TV watching rotation. But for now, I think I'll stick with "White Collar," if only to watch Dekay some more.


Carrie said...

OMG Leverage. I love that show so so so much, it's not even legal. My desktop at work is Eliot Spencer. Omnomnom...

I'm guessing that I might not like this one so much, because part of what I really love about Leverage is the group dynamic. And Christian Kane.

It must be the season for re-making shows, because I've seen commercials for a show called "The Middle" that looks almost exactly like "Malcolm in the Middle". Coincidence? I haven't done the research to find out. What do you think?

Charles Gramlich said...

Hum, I haven't seen it. And I'm not a particular fan of caper type shows. But maybe I'll give it a chance.

SQT said...

Carrie-- I like Leverage too, but there are times when it gets a little cute for me. But they all do that, so ... I guess it's a matter of what kind of cute you live with.

I was surprised by "White Collar." I thought Bomer would steal the show so I was pleasantly surprised to see DeKay step forward. I actually want to see more.

Charles-- not a fan of the caper? Huh. I love that stuff.