Asta 2

White Collar: A Great SyFy Friday Substitute

I don't have any White Collar icons yet, but I will. Oh, I will. The Fall TV season was off to a slow start for me. Sure, there were some returning shows to hold my interest. Castle is nice, frothy entertainment. House, for the moment, shows small signs of it's former glory. The Office and 30 Rock continue to amuse. I was waiting for Southland to return until NBC made the WTF decision to cancel it two weeks before it premiered. But new series had yet to fill me with any sense of joy. FlashForward has not lived up to the hype. Glee continues to be a mixed bag. Modern Family has fulfilled the promise of being the best new comedy of the season with some genuine laugh out loud moments, but with no comedies around it to interest me, I can catch it any time on Hulu. Let us not even speak of Stargate: Universe.

Following so much disappointment, I had just one series yet to look forward too. One series that had earned good early reviews. One series that starred Matthew Bomer. Matt's (he's credited as Matt for White Collar) Bryce Larkin was one of my favorite things about Chuck. During the pilot for Chuck, I thought, "He can't be dead!" Fortunately, he wasn't. Part of me wished he could be a regular, although he would prove distracting from Zachery Levy; part of me thought it would be awesome if he landed the lead role in a good series. A series I would eagerly look forward to each week. And it happened. :)

White Collar's pilot isn't perfect, but it's as well developed and produced a pilot as any I've seen. The mistakes it makes are small and handwaveable given a) it's a pilot and b) the writers needed to quickly establish the premise.

I'm no expert on the U.S. prison system, thankfully, but that was NOT a super max prison. Certainly it would cost more than $700 a month to house a prisoner in super max. It looked more like a medium security facility. And while Neal is prone to escaping custody, he's a non-violent criminal. I don't think they needed to be so specific as to where he was being housed.

I also question, given they are in New York City where everything you need can be found within a few blocks, Neal would be allowed a two mile radius with the anklet. The government is being rather generous.

But those are small quibbles. Everything else is awesome.

The pilot is beautifully photographed and filmed on location in New York. No CGI cityscape or recognizable Vancouver landmark in site! And there is a remarkable attention to detail. June's mansion is gorgeous and representative of a bygone era. Even the much more modest Burke home feels lived in and representative of who they are. Tidy, but not cold, with small, personal touches throughout.

Neal's wardrobe is fabulous and Matt looks fabulous in it. Neal's penchant for vintage clothing and classic tunes (Bobby Darin for the win!) isn't a random quirk assigned to him, it's a natural and essential part of who the character is. Neal Caffrey may be a criminal, but he's a gentleman criminal, and a romantic. He does what he does because he's gifted at it and, yes, to make lots of money, but he's not out to hurt anyone. When he does hurt someone by his actions, his wife Kate, he's devastated. And not because she abandoned him, but because he failed to keep a promise to her.

I feel I need to say that even though I find Matt Bomer devastatingly easy of the eyes and charismatic and with oodles of screen presence, the boy can act. I can't get sucked in by just a pretty face. It just makes me take notice. ;)

But Neal isn't the only unexpected and very welcome character. Tim DeKay's Peter Burke is not your typical FBI agent. He may be the most original FBI agent on TV since Fox Mulder.

Neal may aggravate and frustrate Peter, but Peter also likes him. In a nice twist, Peter isn't saddled with Neal by the FBI; Peter goes to the FBI and presents a case for how Neal could be useful to them. And he's not upset when it's Neal that uncovers a clue that helps catch the bad guy. Peter wants results and isn't bothered if it's him or Neal or anyone on the team that brings them.

Peter reminded me of House in a way. He's a kinder, gentler and hell of a lot happier version of House, but. like House, he enjoys solving puzzles and he's good at it when he has all the pieces. But also like House, he's not particularly good at reading people. That's where Neal helps. He understands the mind of a thief and, more importantly, artist. He knew to look for the "CH" printed on the bond and it was telling that in Peter's pursuit of Neal, he never saw the "NC" hidden within Neal's work.

Ultimately, what I enjoy most about the series is the friendship between Neal and Peter. There's respect between the two. There's admiration. Peter's impressed when Neal uncovers a piece of evidence; Neal's impressed when Peter recounts capturing him. I love it was Neal's plan to be taken into the warehouse that cracks the case and that the two men can hang out on the desk, proud of what they accomplished, together. And I suspect it was Peter who signed off on Neal becoming an FBI consultant rather than just being the con helping them out.

I was going to talk about what a great idea it was to make Diana a lesbian so we could avoid years of UST and will they/won't they, but I'm not sure if Diana is in future episodes. I didn't see her in any previews and imdb only lists the actress as appearing in one episode.

I did love Peter's, "We don't ask; we don't care", line regarding Diana's sexuality. It made me think about this past week's FlashForward in which a female FBI agent talks about feeling compelled to stay in the closet. I wonder which show is closer to the truth? It probably depends on who they are working with.

I'm not sure I'll be so verbose in the coming weeks, but, dammit, I need a show to talk about!

Last week, Entertainment Weekly reported that Hulu looks to begin charging for content in 2010. There are numerous 'How dare they!' and 'I'm through with Hulu as soon as they start charging!' statements left in comments. I love how people feel they are owed free TV and movies. How do they think the product they are watching is paid for? When I clicked on the Broadcasting and Cable link within the article I saw the situation is not as dire as EW reported. I've long assumed the day would come when content would become tiered. For instance, if you want to see episodes the day after they air on the network, you'll have to pay. Want to watch a thirty year old episode of Barney Miller? It's free. I'm actually not put out by the thought of possibly having to pay for some content. Maybe I'll cancel part of my cable package.

And forgive me in aadvance for being spammy this evening. I have two BSG related posts I plan on getting finished tonight. :)
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I love how people feel they are owed free TV and movies. How do they think the product they are watching is paid for?

Most people view Hulu as a substitute for network TV, where the content is paid for by advertising. Hulu is already wall-to-wall with advertising, including commercial breaks in the programs themselves. Of course people don't think they have to pay for it; it's already set up like network TV that you *don't* have to pay for separately.
I don't see Hulu as being wall to wall with advertising. Four ads during a program or one long ad at the beginning of the show is far less obtrusive than the current way ads are run on network TV. I don't think network TV is going anywhere, but with more and more people watching TV and movie programming via the internet I understand that Hulu, their partners, and other providers need to find ways to make money from the platform. And right now people who don't subscribe to a cable or a satellite TV service are able to see quite a bit of programming others have to pay for.

I think we all got a little spoiled by the service, and I think that was part of their master plan. But they are providing myself and others with a service so I can't become outraged by possibly having to pay a fee. I don't even mind paying Comcast for cable. It's the paying for stuff I don't want that bugs me.
I'm not arguing that the programming doesn't need to be paid for somehow, I was just answering your point about what people are thinking. They're thinking that it's like the system they've been used to for however many decades. ::shrug:: Of course it was part of their plan, but it's still a bait-and-switch plan, and if they didn't expect people to be pissed...I don't even know.
I do think Hulu should have announced the news themselves and directly to the viewing public rather than have it come to light the way the news did. It would be nice if they had a tab on the main page that took you to news links or a forum where announcements were made.

I guess I can't see how people could view Hulu as being the same as the old way TV was broadcast, but I'm used to starting out with having free access to media and then having to pay for it. I'm still waiting for Twitter to announce paid accounts.
Most people are far, far less media-savvy/able to apply critical thinking to media or technology than the people you're used to dealing with in fandom. The way it has been (you turn on TV and the content is there!) is the way it will always be, because why would it change? It literally doesn't occur to people to consider it.

Will be interesting to see how this plays out, anyway.
I feel I need to say that even though I find Matt Bomer devastatingly easy of the eyes and charismatic and with oodles of screen presence, the boy can act. I can't get sucked in by just a pretty face. It just makes me take notice. ;)

This. He's gorgeous, but gorgeous just makes me want to stare at still photos for awhile, not watch an acting attempt. But Matt doesn't need to "attempt" to act, thank goodness. He's great at it.

I agree completely about your assessment of Neal & Peter's relationship. I mean, I find it totally slashy, but the slash is completely secondary for me in why I love their relationship. I love that they respect each other, and I love that they're both uniquely smart in their own ways that balance each other out.

I'm not sure if Diana is in the future eps, either. I liked her; I hope she is in future eps, but I've heard murmurings that she's being replaced by a character played by Natalie Morales of The Middleman. Who is great, and awesome, and I'm looking forward to it, but not at Diana's expense, if that's the case. I'd rather have both.

I did love Peter's, "We don't ask; we don't care", line regarding Diana's sexuality. It made me think about this past week's FlashForward in which a female FBI talks about feeling compelled to stay in the closet.

Me too, and I had that same exact thought. I would, of course, prefer the former to be true, but who knows?
I have to say, I can't see slash myself, but I can see how others could. I'm sure fanfic writers are already at work. ;) I do wonder how the show will handle Neal's love for his wife? She did leave him, even though he questions her reasons for doing so, so does he get to date? He's obviously going to have women throwing themselves at him!

It was on rewatch that I caught Diana was a probie so it would be easy to transfer her to another office and bring in a new agent. I do think it would be a shame to lose her if it means bringing in a straight female agent that Neal could flirt with. It's certainly not a deal breaker for me, but I found it refreshing that the possibility of the male lead hooking up with one of the female regulars was non-existent. Neal carrying on an affair with Elizabeth is something that won't happen either.
I second that! Love everything about it. I also find it interesting that I no longer look to the big three for the majority of my TV viewing.
I know! If I made a list, I think the majority of the TV shows I watch are on cable now. And while I like some of USA's shows better than others, they don't have a dud in the bunch. I can't figure out how USA can manage to do so much right when their sister network, NBC, can't do anything right!
Yes, especially what they did to Southland! Did I hear right that it's being picked up by TNT?
It's looking good for a TNT pickup. Today, Warner Bros and NBC came to an agreement to terminate their relationship in regards to the series and Warner Bros now owns all rights to it. So now they are free to sign a deal with another network. There is a question as to whether Southland will go back into production or if TNT would air the 13 episodes filmed (7 from Season 1 and the 6 filmed to date for Season 2), then decide from there whether to order more.
Here’s what I don’t understand: NBC, the network, can’t put a quality drama series on the air to save its life. But USA, a corporate sibling of NBC, continues to launch nothing but great shows.

This isn’t one of those shows where the cop can’t do anything right and the consultant’s out-of-the-box thinking is the only thing that breaks a case.

Both these men are smart, wry and capable, which makes watching them investigate crimes all the more rewarding. I enjoy it when shows involve creative thinking, like Burn Notice — not so much on our (the viewer's) end but on the part of the characters.

"White Collar" is a satisfying mixture of light and dark, of smart and accessible. In other words, it's classic USA. Thank goodness for cable TV shows. They’re a breath of fresh air in a sea of CSI-type shows that bore me to tears with their procedural stuff. I want characters, not just plot!

One last thought- Burke gave Caffrey four years of servitude as a consultant at the end of the pilot. That either kneecaps the show’s trajectory before it starts, or allows for the possibility that Caffrey’s situation may change somewhere down the road. Will he get time off for good behavior? Be released on probation? In which case, when it’s up to him to decide if he wants to continue the work, will he? Without Burke as a guardian, will he feel freer to return to his old ways?

Of course that could all happen regardless, but a kill date does add some drama to the mix. Regardless, in the meantime USA Network has just served us up another really great show. Very cool.
I'm at a loss too. The networks have a history of playing it safe, hence the glut of medical shows, law shows and procedurals. ABC and FOX have broken the molds, somewhat. NBCU likely had a good business model years ago when the nets were struggling with what to do with their cable outlets and they allowed their nets to develop niche programming, hoping for a small, but loyal audience that would appeal to advertisers. In allowing USA to take risks (risk being a relative term since their shows have pretty standard premises, just populated with smart and quirky characters), they've managed to create quality programming attracting (lots of) people looking for something outside the network norm. And because of that, USA now has an audience most nets, especially NBC, would envy. Burn Notice's 9.5 million viewer average is nearly twice Leno's audience. At this point, I have no clue why NBC isn't looking at the USA model, transferring some talent and maybe even stealing some shows, if that is possible. I watch 30 Rock and think Jack wouldn't even put up with the crap going on at NBC right now.

The "I have you for four years" pinged for me as well. I actually thought it was a rather ballsy plot point to throw in. The creators of the show seem to feel they have a quality product that will be successful and run for at least that long. I agree with them. :) If the series were to run longer, I think of how Catch Me If You Can ended. Leo's character served out his time as a 'consultant', but continued to be on the government payroll. I can see Neal opting to do the same. And if the show were to end sooner, Neal could get a pardon or escape custody. I don't think that ankle monitor is escape proof. Actually, I envision the final scene being Neal removing the anklet in front of Peter and telling him he figured out how to do so years ago. ;)
As for hulu charging for content, I think it will depend on what they want to charge and what they are going to offer. A DVR from any cable company is about $10/month. (We've had both Comcast and AT&T U-Verse) If hulu is going to offer basically the same service but the viewer can choose what to pay for and view (à la carte) instead of paying for everything all at once and only viewing a small portion of what is available, why not? I pay for digital cable, but view very few of the channels that are available to me. So, I think the question is whether viewers are going to be willing to pay to watch online videos? Does the answer change for TV vs. movies?

Consider, there is still 10% unemployment nationwide (as we know, much higher here in Michigan), and probably 17% if you include those in the under-employment ranks. In a slow-moving economy still in a recession, getting consumers to pay for more stuff will be hard. Consumers might look for other ways to entertain themselves.

If Hulu makes the big jump to pay, observers would say it's a bold, strong move. Consumers may not bite. And if they shrug their shoulders and move on to the next big thing, NBC, News Corp. and Disney might suddenly long for those digital pennies. Maybe the thinking will come down to: We really like your TV shows, but not that much.
If Hulu goes the route of the cable companies, I think they are doomed to fail. If they go the a la carte route or, as I mentioned, require people to pay for the ability to watch shows the next day then their plan could work. One key to their success (and something I'm sure cable and satellite providers would unhappy about) would be the ability to watch programming on your television. This is still not something widely done, but I can now hook my computer up to my TV so I would feel more inclined to pay a fee to Hulu to watch programming.
I really enjoyed White Collar. I don't actually need another show to take up my time...

Somehow, even though I seem to have less shows I care about, I have lots of shows I don't - and so they end up adding up on my Tivo and I feel obligated to watch them. Does that make sense? In fact, I just powered through 4 episodes of Monk, 3 episodes of Ghost Whisperer and I still have 5 episodes of Numbers I've yet to tackle.

But I watched W.C. and I must say, I think I have a new show to watch. Very fun. Very nice eye candy. Good dialogue. I still feel like I missed the part where he charmed his old lady into giving him a room.