smart, sexy, and perfect for summer Binging.
Streaming on Hulu | 2009 | TV-PG | 6 Seasons
reviewed by Grace
Genre: Lighthearted crime drama
Why We Watched: Don't get me wrong, I like hard hitting crime shows. BUT it is super refreshing to watch one that has all the intrigue and fun twisty plots without the violence and gore. Witty banter replaces heavy dialogue, but the show still has (some) substance.
You Might Also Like: If you haven't dug into Liz's suggestion of Brooklynn Nine-Nine from a few weeks ago yet, you really should! But you should also watch another of my favorite USA Network originals, Suits, which stars the now-Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle.
A few years into a long prison sentence, prolific art thief, forger, and con man Neal Caffrey (Matter Bomer) escapes. His motive? Love. Neal is convinced his girlfriend Kate (Alexandria Daddario) is in trouble and does the only logical thing: he gives prison the slip and goes after her. Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), the FBI agent in the White Collar Division at the New York field office who caught Neal a few years before, catches him again—but this time, it's easy. Neal isn't running. Kate is long gone, her trail cold, and so Neal simply waits for Peter.
When the FBI Special Agent shows up, Neal proposes a deal: with his skills and Peter’s resources, they could catch a lot of bad guys together. (And, Neal thinks, he’ll be able to continue his search for Kate.) Somewhat reluctantly, Peter acquiesces. Neal may be a criminal, but he's also a uniquely talented one. And Peter reasons that he isn’t motivated by greed, like so many other con men. It’s the sport that Neal enjoys, plus the thrill of relieving undeserving billionaires and bad guys of priceless treasures. And thus Neal becomes Peter's Criminal Informant, a bona fide consultant for the FBI—albeit one on a very short leash, thanks to his ankle monitor and strict two-mile radius.
Peter and Neal absolutely crush their cases together, often relying on fellow agents Diana (Marsha Thomason) and Jones (Sharif Atkins), as well as the underhanded methods of Neal’s BFF and longtime partner-in-crime Mozzie (Willie Garson). They sweep through art museums, galleries, banks, fancy hotels, private clubs, and the fast streets of New York City, kicking butts and taking names everywhere they go. Enjoying his success with Peter, Neal starts to like his new life. Working for the FBI, he gets to use his skills and charm to do what he loves, and he’s getting all the same thrills. Maybe he can have his cake and eat it too. Maybe he can have family (something that’s eluded him his adult life), and friends, and love, and a meaningful, exciting job. (It doesn't hurt that he also lives in the most beautiful apartment I've ever seen.)
But there's one thing he doesn't have: his freedom. The FBI watches his every move and determines where he can go, what he can do, when he can do it, and who he can do it with. When Neal finds himself on the cusp of freedom now and then, we wonder what he will do with it—and so does Neal. Will he keep helping the FBI catch bad guys? Will he go back to being a "bad" guy himself? Will he get out of the game entirely? Can he get out of the game entirely? Neal slips into the skin of other lives so easily, so seamlessly, that we can't be sure if he's really Neal Caffrey, FBI Consultant and Reformed Con Man™, or if that's yet another life he's slipping into as part of his longest con yet. In fact, Neal might not be sure himself.
The whole cast is superb, and Matt Bomer plays Neal Caffrey like he was born to play him. Distractingly handsome, charming, and smart, the con man is also sensitive and uncertain, hesitant to trust anyone, yet extremely loyal when it counts, and willing to admit to himself that he likes being on the right side of a con as much as he likes being on the wrong side. His relationships with Peter and his wife Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen), with Mozzie, and with the women in his life are complex and appealing, and they will keep you engaged through the whole run of this series.
I love this Golden Age of Television we're in, but I think shows like White Collar seem almost like extinct creatures. The show isn’t realistic, yet nor is it outlandish or absurd like so many of the stellar miniseries coming out right now. It feels just close enough to the real world—or at least the glamorous parts of the real world that we like to daydream about—that it's the perfect summer escape.
Happy Streaming! Grace