White Collar TV Series Review

After six fun years, the USA Network series “White Collar” aired its final episode on December 18th. Starring Matt Bomer (Magic Mike, Chuck) as the slick con man turned criminal informant Neal Caffrey, and Tim DeKay (Swordfish, The New Adventures of Old Christine) as his FBI handler contact Peter Burke, the show took the buddy cop genre and spun it sideways.

Peter and Neal

Peter and Neal


The series started back in fall 2009, with a nearly silent “cold open” (the segment of a program that runs before the opening theme and credits) showing Neal escaping from jail. The effort was in vain, as he returned only to find his girlfriend gone, and was subsequently caught and arrested again by the same FBI agent that had been tailing him for years. He sits despondent in jail for a few days, eventually resolving to negotiate with Peter to be allowed to make his residence outside in exchange for his assistance in helping to solve unusual and tricky white collar crimes. Much to Peter’s chagrin, Neal is able to find enough wiggle room within the terms of the agreement, to live much more comfortably than anyone at the FBI had anticipated.

Over the years that the show aired, it was interesting to observe the effects that Neal and Peter had on each other, as well as the rest of the characters rounding out the main cast. Peter started out a very straight-laced, by-the-book, no-nonsense type, and Neal’s antics slowly wore that away until the viewer would have a bit of a time recognizing his actions at the end as being in character. Neal, on the other hand, seems to have been thinking at least a dozen steps ahead, even when that wasn’t given any focus in the over-arcing story. In any good long-running television series, the characters can’t change too much without ruining the formula that made it so popular in the first place, and unfortunately for the good guys among us, “White Collar” is no exception. Neal barely changed at all, even if there were times he appeared to be turning over a new leaf. His goal from day one was to regain his freedom.

So let’s go back to the final episode. As I sat in front of my television that night, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many events and ideas were recalled from previous episodes, all the way back to the combination lock cracking in episode 1 (the result of which being how Neal got out of jail and onto the tracking anklet). The Matthew Keller thread was resolved once and for all, as was fitting for having him return as a season six regular character. If anyone recalls the series finale of “House MD”, allow me to just say that the ending of “White Collar” was far more satisfying than that was. To be honest, I’m glad Peter made the decision he did after everything was said and done.

It’s unusual anymore for a television series to last six years without going stale, or changing too many things and ruining its formula. The writers and producers made some interesting decisions over the course of the run, in order to keep it fresh, and this show was that much better for it. As with any long-running series, especially one that has hour-long episodes, it becomes a serious time commitment. However, this series rounded out at 81 (episode 1 being extended length as a premiere), so if you do have the time and the inclination, I highly recommend checking this one out.

Rating: 5th Gear

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