Ranking the Shows I Watch – 21: White Collar

20 Sep

USA is showing up all over this list, but I believe this is its last appearance.  White Collar is a USA-style show about a federal agent and his partner, an ex-con who is helping out the FBI as part of a crazy special deal to suspend his sentence.  Basically, Neal Cafferty, a top class white collar criminal, master of cons, burglaries, forgeries and art theft among others, was a fugitive who top class FBI white collar agent Peter Burke chased after for years, before the show’s beginning.  Burke was the Tommy Lee Jones to Cafferty’s Harrison Ford.  Eventually, Burke gets his man, and due to a number of circumstances not worth explaining here, a unique Mod Squad like bargain is struck in which Cafferty will work for the FBI with an anklet around his, well, ankle, letting the feds know his location in case he leaves a set radius outside of the FBI office.  The two team up to solve all sorts of while collar crimes using Caffery’s knowledge and con-artist skills and Burke hard-nosed disciplined attitude, along with the help of Neil’s best friend, the eccentric Mozzie, who seems to be a bit of an expert on everything.

I love a good grift show. (who doesn’t?)  I’ve watched a good deal of Leverage, and a couple of Breakout Kings, but just short of the amount I’ve required to give either a spot on this list.  That said, White Collar is light and fluffy for a show about federal agents, but it’s a little bit more serious than some of USA’s shows, like Royals Pains or Psych, and it’s very well executed considering its set USA network limitations.  Individual episode plots are just about always nicely wrapped up in neat little packages, with, in USA fashion, little bits of continuing storyline slowly advanced throughout a season.

I couldn’t finish this article without noting one of the scene tropes I most enjoy in White Collar.  Occasionally, Neil and partner-in-crime (quite literally) Mozzie need to employ a grift for whatever end.  They talk about it, and rattle off a bunch or ridiculous names of grifts, such as the “Cannonball” or the “Lazy Susan,” which apparently any grifter worth his salt knows by name, and then one or the other will explain why that’s not suitable with a small snippet like , “too crowded,” or “don’t have a dog.”, before one of them will pick one and explain why it just might work.  It’s an exceptionally silly segment if you step back from it but also quite enjoyable in the moment.

Why It’s This High:  It’s probably the best USA show – it’s enjoyable every week, fun to watch, the chemistry between the two main characters is great, and as I said above, I love a good grift.

Why it’s not higher:  Some of the same factors that make USA shows have a floor of enjoyability, also give them a low ceiling – they’re fun to watch, but don’t have the depth required for greatness

Best Episode of Most Recent Seasons:   We’ll go with “Burke’s Seven” – It contains a couple of the great grifting tropes – a team – rather than the usual two man cons run on the show, and a character, FBI employee Peter, having to prove himself innocent of a frame job, through con – figuring out how a criminal stole Peter’s fingerprints to put them inside a gun which shot Mozzie so our heroes can clear his name to Peter’s boss, the always wonderful James Rebhorne.

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