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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Review: White Collar - Season 1

Ah, White Collar. The replacement series for Monk, the whole series which my family watched in less than a year, this cop-plus-not-a-cop series takes place in New York. It focuses on white collar criminal Neal Caffrey and FBI Special Agent Peter Burke, the former cutting a deal with the agent, who was previously responsible for sending him to prison, to work as an FBI consultant for his four years of prison time. On the side, Neal searches for his lost love, Kate, with help from his shady friend Mozzie. Other supporting characters include Peter's fellow FBI agents Reese Hughes, Clinton Jones, and Lauren Cruz, along with Peter's wife El.

First off, this series may have replaced Monk, but it is by no means a substitute for Monk. That said, they are two completely different shows. Monk's main focus was on solving crimes with a lot of humor and progressive character development throughout the series. Combined with smart writing, such as when the series made the character switch between Sharona and Natalie, it pulled it off. White Collar, on the other hand, is not strictly speaking about the crimes, its about the characters. Any television show which puts characterization over plot while still having decent writing earns a gold star in my book, but that doesn't mean the show isn't without its flaws.

Where with Monk I was displeased with the show's continued use of circumstantial evidence to solve crimes, which was nicely deconstructed in Mr. Monk Takes the Stand, I have similar complaints about White Collar. Most of the resolutions to the crimes are simple enough, but some are unnecessarily convoluted. Mind you, this is the exception, not the rule, but I am also displeased by the show's evident lack of research in some areas. For instance, one episode features an Interpol agents, except that Interpol doesn't have agents. A key plot point relies on the series' main antagonist being an OPR (Office of Professional Responsibility) agent, and therefore almost untouchable. The only problem is that OPR agents investigate Department of Justice attorneys, not FBI agents. I'm not sure who does, but that's besides the point. I also had issues with the portrayal of Kate. She's hard for the audience to actually care about, and just seems to exist as a goal for Neal to achieve, and that's it. Finally, I'm not a fan of the frenetic, fast-paced establishing shots of New York that this show has. If they wanted to make it seem crowded, they should have gone for slow, overarching shots.

In the end, White Collar isn't perfect, and I like Monk a bit better, but White Collar is still a genuinely good series. The first season is understandable flawed, but maybe that's just because it hasn't quite found it's voice yet. The smart writing, good character dynamics, and sharp dialogue are usually enough to carry it, but maybe the next season will have a little more to offer.

RATING: 8.5/10

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