Culture > Television
David Giesbrecht/USA Network

White Collar

Television | USA crime sitcom is a refreshing break from grizzly television dramas

Issue: "Praying for rain," Aug. 11, 2012

The crime sitcom White Collar, in its fourth season on USA, is a refreshing break from the standard grizzly television dramas. Drawing from classic prototypes, the show centers on two characters. Charming and likable art thief Neil Caffrey (Matt Bomer), a younger, modern version of David Niven's Pink Panther, is completing his prison sentence as the criminal informant or "CI" for squeaky clean FBI agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), an all-star white collar investigator who spent three years chasing Neil before putting him behind bars.

Much of Agent Burke's success stems from his happy marriage to Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen), a supportive and secure wife who loves her husband and encourages him in his work, particularly when it comes to Neil.

Neil and Peter make an ideal team. The crimes they solve involve stolen art, stolen Stradivarius violins, stolen diamonds, and sometimes stolen people. Neil's weakness for beauty often gets them entangled with gorgeous women, but most of the explicit action is left off-screen, and thus far hasn't involved adultery on Agent Burke's part.

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The criminals they deal with are bad, but not sadistic, and they always get caught, oftentimes with the help of Neil's good friend and confidant Mozzie (Willie Garson). Mozzie is a con man par excellence, and deeply distrusts Agent Burke, who he feels is pulling Neil to the "dark side."

Caught in the middle, Neil is torn between his old life as a con man and his new life as a valuable member of society. He envies Peter's law-abiding life, but still finds a good heist scintillating. He longs for a wife and family, but can't resist kissing a beautiful woman.

This tension between crime and respectability, or more importantly evil and good, is Neil's ultimate struggle, adding a deeper level to the storyline, and mirroring the daily battle everyone, this side of Heaven, fights.

Stephanie Perrault
Stephanie Perrault

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