USA wins again with ‘White Collar’

Posted Oct. 22, 2009, at 7:28 p.m.

With “Monk” on its way out after eight seasons, USA Network is seeking new heroes for its lineup of original series.

Or maybe anti-heroes.

“Monk” is quirky but likable, totally unthreatening. Its Friday-night companion, “Psych,” follows along that same line, with more humor than drama.

USA’s latest protagonists have been edgier. On “In Plain Sight,” Mary Shannon is a surly marshal in the witness protection program. On “Burn Notice,” Michael Weston is a “burned” spy who’s trying to get back in to the CIA. Both characters have their charms, but aren’t that warm and fuzzy.

Now comes USA’s latest, “White Collar,” which has a 90-minute premiere at 10 tonight.

“White Collar” is something different: a mismatched buddy dramedy.

FBI Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) gets obsessed when tracking master criminals. One of those, Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer, “Chuck”), becomes his reluctant partner when Burke captures him after an escape from prison.

Caffrey, a consummate con man, has soon left the flophouse where Burke placed him and settled into a rich widow’s posh penthouse, where he does odd jobs, including watching out for her attractive granddaughter.

Burke knows that “it takes a thief to catch a thief,” and Caffrey is full of knowledge and has many contacts on the wrong side of the law. He’s also charming, captivating his landlady (Diahann Carroll) and Burke’s wife, Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen).

Caffrey needs to stay out of prison, aiding Burke in exchange for his freedom and the opportunity to search for his long-lost love, who couldn’t wait another three months for him to get out of jail.

In Caffrey, Bomer has the well-written, starring role for which he has been ready for some time. Character actor DeKay is a delightful foil for Bomer.

USA has found another standout in “White Collar.”

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