White Collar is another stylish light thriller from USA with character and snappy dialogue intertwined with the mystery of the week. White Collar seems to have some inspiration from a late 1960s series It Takes a Thief.
Like It Takes a Thief, one of the principle characters is a thief/con artist named Neal Caffrey, who starts the episode taking his leave of prison just three months shy of the end of a four year stretch for forgery and other crimes. It seems that Caffrey’s girl friend has vanished and his is very anxious to find out where she is. Caffrey is smart, skilled, and very amoral when it comes to minor things like laws.
Peter Burke, an FBI agent, is also smart and skilled, but unlike Caffrey has ethics. Peter Burke is the only person to have caught Caffrey and was instrumental in arranging his stay at Club Fed. Burke very quickly catches up with Caffrey and takes him back.
If that was all there was, White Collar would be a short lived series indeed. But Burke needs Caffrey’s help in catching a mysterious counterfeiter named ‘the Dutchman.” It seems that the Dutchman has hatched a get very rich very quick scheme involving the forging of Spanish war bonds. (Note to the show runner of White Collar. Spain was neutral during World War II. Franco, while a fascist, was not a fool. Hence, there was no Spanish Underground. Hence there was no reason to float Spanish war bonds to finance them.)
But the Spanish war bonds are just the McGuffin that gets Caffrey out of jail and into Burke’s hair. Caffrey demonstrates his skills by arranging to become the permanent boarder of a very rich widow and her luscious granddaughter with access to the dead husband’s wardrobe that just happens to fit him. Caffrey’s charms are lost on Diana, Burke’s right hand gal at the Bureau, but then so would any man’s. (“I thought you people had a policy about that.” “That’s the military. We don’t ask. We don’t care.”) Truly it is no longer Hoover’s FBI, though to be fair, as far as Hoover was concerned, it never was.
The Dutchman, who turns out to be an art restorer, is naturally tracked down and caught in short order, largely thanks to Caffrey’s creative use of warrant law. But two running plot lines have been set up that will likely be visited in subsequent episodes.
First, there is the mystery of Caffrey’s missing girl friend. Did she run to avoid Caffrey, as Burke suggests? Or is there something else. This provides an incentive for Caffrey to break the agreement that had gotten him out of jail, i.e. help Burke catch crooks and don’t run away, by running away.
Burke has a long suffering wife, Elizabeth, who has grown somewhat resigned to his long absences and forgetfulness concerning anniversaries. Prodded by Caffrey, Burke uses his FBI investigative and profiling skills to figure out what Elizabeth would like for an anniversary gift. That turns out to be a week in the Caribbean.Very droll. One does not have to be an top FBI sleuth to figure that one
Source White Collar, Pilot Episode, TV.Com