TV: White Collar, the Charming Detective

Source: Hollywood Today
Date: October 23, 2009

“He’s kind of quixotic,” says White Collar star Matt Bomer. “He’s not just this smooth, cool, perfect con man. He’s a romantic at heart. He’s really in love with this girl and that’s really the driving force in aligning himself with the FBI. He’s real goal is to try to find her.”

“Kate is Neal’s Achilles heal,” says White Collar creator and executive producer Jeff Eastin. “In all other ways he’s a smart guy. When I worked on the pilot for the show I looked at Rush Hour, 48 Hours, Catch Me If You Can, that have this dynamic of pursuit and butting heads. It works great in features, but it hasn’t worked in TV. The reason is in television you want to want to spend time with these people. When you have two guys who hate each other it works great for two hours in a theater. Lethal Weapon is another example. We got a 90-minute pilot. I said thirty minutes into it, let’s team them up. It’s two guys who respect each other and work well together.”

“The premise is about an FBI agent and his nemesis who’s a criminal and how they come together and work together to solve crimes,” says White Collar star Tiffany Thiessan. “I play Elizabeth who’s the FBI agent’s wife. She’s labeled as the perfect wife, which I hope I can play. She’s the support system for Peter and has her own career. You have these two guys who come from two totally different worlds. You have Peter who’s a normal hard-working sort of guy. Then you have Neal who’s mischievous and always on the move and very witty.”

USA Network’s newest original series White Collar premieres in a 90-minute special tonight at 10pm PT, 9pm CT and will air weekly with 13 one-hour episodes. There’s a precedent for a hit series about a detective teamed with a witty con man. That’s Remington Steele. White Collar shares aspects of that story, but gives it more of a Lethal Weapon vibe.

The USA network has done well with original series, starting with Monk, now in its final season. “Monk is the show that started the cable renaissance,” says USA Network Original Programming President Jeff Wachtel. “USA Network has been the #1 cable network for twelve quarters,” says USA Network CEO Bonnie Hammer, “It beat the The CW for the first time for the entire year in 2008.”

With USA you get to explore characters,” says Eastin. “It’s not just a procedural cop show. Tiffani as Elizabeth is like Abigail Adams, very supportive but strong in her own right.” White Collar is shot on location in New York. “Id never been to New York. I wrote it all off Google Streetview.”

White Collar’s unapologetic in its quest to have fun while catching criminals, a charming alternative to a sea of CSI spin-offs. It’s an interesting twist to keep the rogue’s love interest firmly off-screen. Making a character more interesting who you never see is a trick from Charlie’s Angels. Key to making White Collar or any charming rogue story work is the acting. Mathew Bomer succeeds in oozing the charm of Pierce Brosnan while displaying the mental ingenuity of MacGyver.

White Collar premieres on the USA Network on Friday, October 23rd, at 10pm PT, 9pm CT.