It's just like taking eye candy from a baby

By Hank Stuever
Friday, October 23, 2009

It must be said right off that Matthew Bomer, who stars as paroled forger-thief-grifter Neal Caffrey in USA's stylish new crime procedural, "White Collar," is like, even cuter than Dr. Humunuh-humunuh or whatever his name is over there on CBS's brain-dead new hospital show, "Three Rivers." This is important to point out because the fall season has all but unfurled itself and somewhere out there, editors at People are assembling a new Sexiest Man Alive issue. I'm just doing my part in identifying televised hottitude and I apologize if there's drool on your paper.

Oh, but you want to read a review of a television show. Bah! What can I tell you that you probably hadn't guessed? "White Collar" is about Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), an investigator in the "white collar" crime division of the FBI office in Manhattan. While hunting down the elusive "Dutchman," a forger who leaves bombs behind, Burke gets the disappointing word that his nemesis, Caffrey, has easily broken out of a supermax prison.

Caffrey exudes cool and cunning. The fizzily entertaining pilot of "White Collar" -- which debuts Friday night on USA and was directed by Bronwen Hughes, who also did "Breaking Bad" and "Burn Notice" -- works hard to establish a vibe of style and smarts, and almost gets the job done. It's certainly watchable and easy on the brain, which is just how dedicated crime-show watchers like it.

Burke quickly catches up to Caffrey (it turns out he broke out of prison because he was upset over being dumped by his girlfriend) and sends him back to prison. "That's the same suit you were wearing the last time you arrested me," Caffrey notes -- but wait, what's that speck of thread on Burke's shoulder? Caffrey, a criminal genius, recognizes it as a security fiber from a Canadian $100 bill.

So you see? The criminal can help solve crimes. Caffrey and Burke are now thrown together in "White Collar's" essential setup: For the price of an ankle monitor, Caffrey is released into Burke's custody as a sort of consulting (and pithily insulting) partner. The mysteries in the first two episodes are rather 2+2 -- almost "Charlie's Angels"-like in their lack of menace or intrigue -- and the real draw is the gruff but good-natured sparring between Caffrey and Burke.

The camera smartly zooms in on Bomer's steely blue eyes at every opportunity; but no sooner than the second episode has he marred his beautiful looks with one of those insipid Justin Timberlake fedoras. Still, "White Collar" bears staring.

White Collar (70 minutes) debuts Friday at 10 p.m. on USA.

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