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Featured TV on DVD Review: White Collar: Season One

July 15th, 2010

White Collar: Season One - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

White Collar debuted last year on USA network and earned strong ratings for the cable network, as well as positive reviews. However, it is part of a rather crowded genre. It is essentially a police procedural show, so its competition includes CSI, The Closer, Leverage, Castle, and literally dozens of others. Its hook is simple, a former conman is working with the FBI to help solve the very same crimes he used to commit. Or should that be "former" conman, because he seems to have his own agenda as well.

The series starts with Matt Bomer as Neal Caffrey, a forger / conman that was sent to prison four years ago. In a nearly silent opening scene, we see him shave his new beard, put on a guard uniform, and calmly walk out the front gate. Meanwhile, Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) is working on busting another case with a forger when he learns Neal Caffrey escaped. He is brought in to help re-capture him, because he was the one that caught him in the first place. A quick insight helps him get Neal in the home of his girlfriend, Kate (Alexandra Daddario), who visited just before Neal started his escape plan. During his arrest, Neal sees some evidence on the new case and makes Peter an offer. Peter is very reluctant to agree, but you know he will, because if not, there would be no show.

Throughout the first season, Peter and Neil team up and with the help of a couple of FBI agents, Jones (Sharif Atkins) and Lauren Cruz (Natalie Morales), as well as regular help from those on the other side of the cops and robbers divide, Mozzie (Willie Garson) and Alex (Gloria Votsis). Individual cases involve mundane ones like mortgage fraud, to more dangerous ones like an undercover agent going missing, to more exotic ones like the the forging of a one of a kind item. Also throughout the first season, Neil tries to locate his girlfriend, Kate, after he realizes that her breakup with him was not as simple as it first appeared. Additionally, Peter has to deal with an OPR officer within the FBI, Garrett Fowler. (As it is described in the show, OPR is to the FBI as Internal Affairs is to the cops.)

We also see the more domestic side of the lives of out two leads with Peter's wive Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen) very accepting of the long hours Peter puts in at work. She is also very trusting of Neil and Neil's friends, more than Peter is through much of the first season. We also meet June (Diahann Carroll), the rich widow Neil meets in the pilot and quickly earns an invite to her home. She knows he's a conman, but she says she reminds her of her husband.

This show is a balancing act between the mystery of the crimes and the humor from the various personalities. It also maintains a real balance between the crime of the week and the threads of the ongoing plot. I think the show's biggest asset is the cast. Matt Bomer is nearly perfect as the charming conman Neil, while his chemistry with Tim DeKay as Peter is equally strong. All of the supporting cast thrive in their roles. I love seeing Natalie Morales in a show, as she was incredible as Wendy Watson in The Middleman. Thank goodness this show is continuing more than one season. Also, this is arguably Tiffani Thiessen's best TV series since... forever. And Willie Garson is one of those actors where you might not recognize the name, but he's done a huge number of guest spots in a wide variety of TV shows.

Finally, given the nature of the show, there is plenty of work for actors I like to call "Lack of Character Actors". People like Mark Sheppard or Carlo Rota. You see either of their names in the credits, and you know they will be playing bad guys, or at the very least, good guys for whom you would want count the silverware after they left.

I only have the Blu-ray to review, which is much better than only having the DVD, but it does make it difficult to judge the relative value of the two formats. However, since the Blu-ray only costs about 26% more than the DVD, it would be hard for High Definition not to be the better deal.

Extras on the three-disc set start with audio commentary tracks on five of the fourteen first season episodes with a mixture of cast and crew. These people obviously have a good time on the show and bring that energy here. Next up is a 12-minute gag reel filled with blown lines and general goofiness on set. There are also 10 minutes of deleted / extended scenes that play as on chunk. Not the best way to present deleted scenes, but at least we have them. Pro and Con is a seven-minute featurette on the two leads on the show. A Cool Cat in the Hat spends six minutes on the wardrobe on the show. Nothing But the Truth is a short, two-minute featurette on the technical consultant. Hard to complain about this selection of extras.

As for the show's technical presentation, it's good for a TV show. The video is crisp, colors are lively, blacks are strong, and there's little to no grain. The dialogue is clear, but the surround sound speakers are a little underused. That said, it is worth the upgrade.

The Verdict

White Collar is an amazingly consistent show throughout season one. The pilot is great and the season ends on a high note, while there's not a real dud among the various episodes in-between. There are plenty of extras on both the DVD and the Blu-ray and either format is worth picking up, but the latter is the better deal.

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