December 19, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Finale Review: “White Collar”


WHITE COLLAR didn’t do anything very remarkable with its final season.  Only 6 episodes were ordered, and the season was almost entirely serialized, although it did find time for one tangential hour that allowed us to meet Mozzie’s (Willie Garson) con woman ex-wife.  The main storyline tried to gritty the show up a bit, as gentleman thief/forger/con man and semi-willing FBI consultant Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) went undercover with the Pink Panthers, which despite its jokey name was a group of hardcore criminal thieves who were perfectly happy to kill their way out of problems.  Further complicating matters, another member of the Panthers was Neal’s dangerous old partner/adversary Keller (Ross McCall).  “Gritty” was never really White Collar‘s best color, and one missed the light, sophisticated touch of the show’s original It Takes A Thief-ian vibe.

On the domestic front, the major event was the baby on the way for FBI agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), Neal’s mentor, father figure, occasional captor and friend, and Burke’s wife Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen).  As always on White Collar, though, the central theme was Neal’s desire to pull off One Big Score that would permit him to walk away from his FBI ankle bracelet and regain his freedom.  The final script, credited to series creator Jeff Eastin, Story Editor Julian Meiojas and staff writer Eddie Serrano, tried its damnedest (as did the directoin by Sanford Bookstaver) to create the impression that Neal had perished at Keller’s hands in the aftermath of the last heist (a $500M load of Federal Reserve cash that was taken in a scheme that featured pneumatic tubes).  But anyone who’d ever watched this series, or for that matter any movie or TV show about a con man who appears to die, knew that Neal’s demise 20 minutes before the end of the episode was hardly going to be the end.  Sure enough, with the aid of the usual paraphernalia (a blank bullet, a toxin that simulated the effects of death, some recruited fake paramedics), Neal lived to spend the $23M he’d siphoned off from the Panther take, and was even kind enough to leave Peter the key to a storage container that held not just the evidence of his ruse, but an indication that his next target was going to be the Louvre.

At its best, White Collar was light entertainment with charm and no shortage of sparkle, blessed with superb chemistry among its 4 leads.  (Some credit, too, to hardworking Sharif Atkins and Marsha Thomason as Peter’s FBI cohorts, who mostly toiled the exposition highway, but occasionally got a bright moment where they got to be clever or funny).  Bomer and DeKay, in particular, were a tremendously entertaining contrasting match, able to suggest their character’s bromance and clashing moral codes without overdoing either.  In its later seasons, Eastin took the show down a few unfortunate by-ways, like the amount of time that was spent on Neal’s daddy issues (a cop who was or wasn’t dead and was or wasn’t crooked), and White Collar came to fit in less well with USA’s more ambitious (if mostly unsuccessful) new dramatic identity.  Champagne only holds its fizz for so long, and it was time for White Collar to go, maybe even a little past time.  For a while, though, it was a fine imitation-this was USA Network, after all-of elegant criminal fun.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."