Not long ago I was talking with a friend about recent TV shows we wish would’ve gotten more air time. There have been several over the last decade that we both loved that, when the shows got canceled, we realized how rare and special they were.
One such show was “White Collar,” a procedural show that aired on USA Network that follows FBI agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) and his criminal informant/assistant Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer), who struggles to stay on the straight and narrow, as they solve white collar crimes together. Rounding out the cast are Peter’s wife Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen), Neal’s best friend and confidante Mozzie (Willie Garson), along with FBI agents Diana Berrigan (Marsha Thomason) and Clinton Jones (Sharif Atkins).
The magic of “White Collar” lies in a mixture of three key elements: first, the exotic and fun nature of the crimes in the white collar division; second, Neal’s magic of the con; and third, the perfect blend of relationships.
Being an FBI agent in the White Collar division looks a lot different than other divisions. Hit shows and their spinoffs like “Law & Order” or “CSI” pick apart gruesome crimes, and while it can be fun to watch the characters solve the mystery, those mysteries are often heavy, which isn’t what I’d want to watch after a day of work. The crimes in “White Collar” are about thievery, stolen antiquities, and forgeries, and — while I’m attempting not to glamorize any crime –– it does lend itself to a more lighthearted program. In addition to the episodic crimes, so there are, too, the “long-con” mysteries: from finding out to what happened with Neal’s ex-girlfriend to the mystery of Neal’s father.
In any good heist movie, the fun in the film is in crafting the heist and pulling it off. “White Collar” does that on a frequent basis, whether it’s about Neal Caffrey trying to cover up a crime or trying to outwit a criminal, from the aging of a wine bottle to playing the role of an English teacher to cozy up to a criminal parent, the show never ceases to amaze at both the art of the con.
Lastly, the thing White Collar did so well was the layers of relationships. Peter and El’s relationship as a husband and wife who actually get along (because that doesn’t happen frequently in Hollywood productions); Peter as Neal’s handler, who knows Neal well enough not to trust him fully but has built up a relationship akin to father and son; El’s special relationship with Neal, acting as a surrogate mother; and Mozzie, who is the lovable devil on Neal’s shoulder. That’s nothing to say for all of Neal’s loves, but especially Sara Ellis (Hilarie Burton), the insurance investigator who testified against Neal at his trial and frequently pairs with the FBI for investigations.
“White Collar” was the real deal, a blend of humor, banter, intriguing crimes, complicated cons, and fascinating mysteries, all while building deep, close-knit characters, who, despite faults and trials, loved each other.
“White Collar” is free with ads on IMDbTV/Amazon Prime (membership not needed.)