The new USA Network series White Collar has a good central premise (a good-lookin’ white collar convict with strong criminal talents gets sprung from prison to help the FBI) and is overall a smooth piece of work. Some thought clearly went into the long term, with at least as much creative attention being paid to the agent who originally arrested him and is now his handler, treating him not as a talentless loser to always be shown up by the slick con man, but as a generally capable man whose honest career path has less of a payoff. Supporting characters and a running storyline are set up. And the overall goal here is “fun and stylish”, not somber and serious; not as light as, say, Castle, but not headed off into CSI territory.
But there is one weakness apparent in the pilot, and it’s a major one. The actor playing the con is a good-lookin’ guy; really, he brings to mind Paul Gross in a lot of ways, and we like Paul Gross around here. But damn, the fake Paul Gross doesn’t have the real Gross’s acting chops. He never brings you into the character, never gets you caring. He comes across as all surface, no humanity. So the only place to go for the humanity is the FBI handler, which is in the hands of an actor that can handle it.
So this fake Paul Gross series is better than this year’s real Paul Gross series, but not as good as it should be.