Despite a fairly late start, White Collar is the first of the non-cancelled series to finish this year I think, certainly the only one that I’ve actually been watching. At fourteen episodes long the season felt compact and unpadded, with US seasons usually being at least 20 episodes long, this made a nice change.
Everything I said back in my October review of the pilot is carried through the rest of the season and if there were one word to sum it up I suspect it would be ‘nice’. This is old school Sunday evening entertainment that can be watched with the grandparents. There’s no sex, violence or swearing, even the crimes are mostly pretty civilised with a focus on heists and scams rather than murders and carnage.
The show isn’t a particularly complex one, but it is smart; while the mysteries aren’t terribly challenging they’re usually satisfyingly well thought out. The weekly plots are engaging but pretty instantly forgettable, while the mystery of Neil’s missing girlfriend is carefully paced through the season, moving very slowly, but never quite feeling like it’s being dragged out.
The best thing though is the characters, who have depth, charm and intelligence. While it may seem at first that Peter the FBI agent is straightforward and Neil the conman is the man of mystery, there’s more to it than that. Neil is actually quite straightforward, his motives are always very obvious he just uses convoluted methods. Peter meanwhile is more than capable of playing up his simple, good guy persona to surprise those around him with his knowledge and willingness to stretch the rules. The relationships between the two was fascinating from the start and matured organically, they trust and respect each other, but not blindly or limitlessly.
The second partnership of the show is equally well done, Tiffani Thiessen is absolutely brilliant as Elizabeth, Peter’s wife. They too trust and respect each other and after a decade of marriage, really understand each other. Neil meanwhile has the two sides of his conscience sitting on his shoulders. Mozzie is the slightly generic (but quite entertaining) ‘fixer’ from the old days, while June is his landlady who seems to have adopted the bad boy because she can see he has a good heart. They needle and nudge Neil in the same way Elizabeth does with Peter, sometimes to stay within the law, sometimes to step over the line, and sometimes to just rub the line out altogether.
This is a tea and biscuit kind of show to be watched when you don’t really feel like thinking, but don’t want something completely mindless. That’s a pretty hard thing to get excited about, it’s not going to win awards or be on many people’s top ten lists. But I think the cast and crew can be very proud of the fact that they’ve created something so consistent and just plain nice.
White Collar is “coming soon” to Bravo.