Ever since becoming a follower of USA produced shows where they beckon “Characters Welcome” as their trademark slogan, this show has popped up in promo spots and all kinds of material interrelated to the series I was already enjoying. Further reading only tempted me more and the shows premise sounded like wicked good fun – plus a commentator compared it to Burn Notice… enough said.

If truth were to slap Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) in the face, he might not know what hit him. His girlfriend just dumped him and instead of coin collecting, he collects aliases. What’s worse, he can do nothing to win his beloved back – he is in prison. The best con man in the business, Neal is a white collar criminal whose specialties have been proven but not limited too art and securities theft, along with forgeries. Since he enjoyed the high life with rarely any limits, Neal has made an enemy or two in his line of work, just one of whom is the FBI. Or more specifically, Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) the only agent to ever entrap Neal, catching him in an act that would make charges stick. Now with four months left to go in his sentence, Neal conceives a brilliant escape plan in order to find Kate… but all he gets is an empty bottle of vintage wine that relays “good-bye,” Peter waiting to nab Neal again – and another four years in jail. Back in prison, Neal proves that all the information Peter has on him is reciprocated; Neal knows just as much about Peter. Right now, Peter is working on bringing down The Dutchman, an infamous forger – and Neal can help with that. Skeptical, Peter walks away from Neal’s offer, especially when what Neal wants is a reduced sentence.

Figuring Neal is playing him, Peter isn’t excited at the prospect of the man no one could touch running the streets again but his quest to put into custody The Dutchman outweighs his reservations. His wife, Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen) is now well acclimated to being a federal agent’s wife after a decade of marriage but when their anniversary is upcoming and Neal is the one to remind Peter of that, the twosome not only must work together to nab notorious white collar criminals, but teaching Peter the art of romance.

As if plot outlines aren’t enough, basically this is a show having a con man as the main “hero” and for that alone, it builds on some interesting intersecting plots. And, many of those points aren’t necessarily immoral; it could even be argued that they explore dishonesty and loyalty in some personal ways and the ending result is often positive. As with many shows, the “hook” doesn’t fully come until two or three episodes in – it just doesn’t reach its full potential until then. The pilot is still awesome and it gives us a feel of who everyone is going to become but not everyone will be intrigued by it since a lot of shows are “cautious” in their first run when testing audiences, is vital. Then, if ordered to full season, they really bring their a-game. You need to give the show a minimum of three episodes before giving a final verdict.

All the characters are really interesting and I look forward to seeing where writers take them in future; Peter and Elizabeth in particular are adorable together. They are extremely mismatched individuals but they love each other more that anything. I love their witty banter and the fact that Peter bounces theories off his wife; similarly, the interplay between Neal and Peter is hilarious (as is that between Elizabeth and Neal!). Both are innately perceptive and most noticeably in Peter, there is more than meets the eye to his character – his constant distrust of Neal is often met with surprise. Normal to any show, this ones freshman season has an ongoing plot line, but was one that wound up surprising me as I’d assumed a case the duo was working on (tracking a notorious thief), would be the underlying plot, becoming a thorn to be reckoned with, instead a more personal issue takes precedence where Neal is the one with ghosts haunting him. One of the most entertaining episodes is “All In,” which coincidently also drops the biggest bombshell on us.

White Collar’s impact is more emotional than it is exciting. Having an FBI agent work in a branch where chasing the bad guys (the ones who accessorize with machine guns) isn’t a part of the job description does not lend itself to being overly thrilling in terms of an adrenaline rush. So if that is a requirement as a part of television viewing, this won’t be your thing. What the show does have is, like many of its neighbors, fabulous, witty humor. At first, my idea of this network (USA) was that so long as they brought in ratings, it didn’t matter what was shown on the air, but with such a fondness for Burn Notice, I have read more about the “standards” the station holds itself too and have come to appreciate their programs all the more, branching out to something other than my usual. Its entire appeal just works; from wardrobe to the angles of filmmaking, or as my mother would say about Neal – he’s the “cutest criminal” yet. That he is!

Thanks to Ruth at Booktalk and More for her thoughts on this series; it was the “final straw” in convincing me to try this! (Note to Ruth:  you really shouldn’t have written such a convincing review! *grin*)

(Cautions: the premiere and finale allude to a lesbian character. Neal is a notorious flirt and is constantly making conquests; there is some sensual flirting between a married couple. Episode three has Neal romancing a suspect and as part of his cover, there is a seductive “pat-down” scene in which Neal moves his hands over her entire body as she does likewise. Not wanting Peter to know who one of his past associates is they pretend Alex was at his place for, more than just a chit-chat [she undresses to her slip, later, they swim nude]. During the course of investigations, at least four people die.)