White Collar (2009–2014)
Matt Bomer as white collar criminal Neal Caffrey is the tasty little bad boy your mother did not warn you about because she did not want you to know that such men truly exist. His success in life is based solely on his wit, charm and good looks and he is very, very successful. He is a self-effacing fop in a Sy Devore suit.
The lineage of criminals who use their skills and talents to help people is long. The Saint, The Falcon and Boston Black.ie wore the mantle in movies of the 1940s. Robert Wagner in It Takes a Thief and Simon Baker in The Mentalist have carried the torch on television. This show clearly demonstrates that even such an old premise can be presented in a refreshing, charming and funny way.
The basic story is that a con man/thief/master criminal is near the end of a sentence for forgery when his lover declares she is leaving him. He escapes to find her but she has disappeared completely. His solution is to become a consulting expert and criminal informant to the FBI so he will have some measure of freedom in searching for her. That is the first season's story arc while each episode has its own con/theft/caper to catch a criminal.
It is to the writers' everlasting credit that Tim DeKay as his FBI handler Peter Burke is an intelligent and well-rounded individual instead of the typical two-dimensional dumb cop. His deep background is baseball and accounting, his relationship with his beautiful wife is friendly and flirty with a touch of angst, his instincts are good and his judgement is sound.
Willie Garson as Mozzie is an absolute gem! He is one of those fuzzy, muzzy little guys who seem perfectly harmless but has a deeper and more far-reaching intellect than anyone suspects. His loyalty to his friends is matched only by his belief in the wildest-of-the-wild conspiracy theories.
The scripts are witty, touching and at times a little winsome. The acting is so good that it is difficult to see it as acting rather than people just being themselves. The settings, camerawork and other production values are better than most other television programs.
I am sad to say that each episode's caper is the most disappointing aspect of the program. The idea, structure and execution are often brilliant. The level of suspension of disbelief necessary is very low. What damages them is factual errors, lashed-up props and a general sense that no one from the writers to the editors know which end of a screwdriver to use.
I am sorry to say also that this series is not as accessible as many of its ilk. I could not find it in free-with-ads format anywhere. Amazon Prime Video, VuDu and others have episodes and seasons available for purchase. One streaming service which is so foul and corrupt that I will not mention its name supposedly offers it with subscription but I would doubt any claim that it could deliver a complete and error-free presentation. I was fortunate to receive the complete series on DVDs as a Christmas gift.