'White Collar' oozes charm and fun

matthewbomer_whitecollar_290.jpgUSA gets away with a lot by having absolutely charming male characters at the center of its dramas.

"Royal Pains" would be a much more boring medical show without Hank. "Burn Notice" wouldn't sizzle as much without Michael Westen. And we all know that without Monk there wouldn't be a show.

The network applies the same formula to its newest series "White Collar," premiering tonight at 10 p.m. on USA. Matt Bomer (Bryce Larkin on "Chuck") stars as master criminal Neal Caffrey. In the pilot, Neal cleverly escapes from jail only to be caught again by his benevolent nemesis FBI Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay). Burke offers him a deal - help me catch other bad guys and you can stay out of jail.

Bomer has a delightful carefree approach to the role. He looks like he's having fun so how can viewers not go along for the ride? And I've been a fan of DeKay's since he played Kirsten's husband many, many years ago on "Party of Five." He's been a television fixture for a long time - popping up as Bizarro Jerry on "Seinfeld," as Jonesy on "Carnivale," and as one half of a fairly dysfunctional relationship on "Tell Me You Love Me." It's really fun to see him in such a high profile role. And Peter is a great foil for Neal and vice versa. The pilot is a breezy, amusing hour of television.

I only have two complaints. Like many of USA shows, there's a lot of character but not necessarily enough substance. The plot in the pilot was pretty weak. And I'm just not sure what to make of Tiffani Thiessen as Peter's wife Elizabeth. The whole episode I kept waiting for a big reveal that somehow she's involved in the intrigue of the show - maybe she's an FBI agent too or shares a past with Neal -but right now she's just the wife. I keep thinking there has got to be more to her character.

But all in all, I liked the show. Three and a half out of five stars. After you watch tonight's premiere, let me know what you think.

Monk

Bitty Schram returns to "Monk" as Adrian's assistant, Sharona, tonight at 9 p.m. on USA. It's a fun episode for two very specific reasons:

1. I always thought the series did a fantastic job of making Natalie a completely distinct character from Sharona and really set up how different Sharona's relationship with Adrian was from Natalie's relationship with Mr. Monk. So it's highly entertaining to see Natalie and Sharona together.

2. Something happens in this episode that I've wanted to happen since Sharona was on the show. I won't spoil it for you but I think you'll be very happy when you see it.

But other than that, I was disappointed in the episode because the show continues to be so goofy and, far too often, has Monk acting like a fool. I know as the show works towards its series finale, Monk is finally going to solve the mystery of his wife's murder. That's a serious topic and one that right now the show doesn't tonally seem ready for. What do you think?

TV News This Week

Let's discuss the big stories that happened on TV this week starting with the good news first:

1. "Glee:" As "Glee" gears up for the second half of its season, a lot of fun news broke this week. Joss Whedon will direct an episode. That just seems like the perfect combination, doesn't it? As someone who still goes around singing the soundtrack to "Once More With Feeling," I cannot wait for this. We also learned that there will be an episode this season featuring only Madonna songs. I already have visions of the glee club belting out "Express Yourself" and Emma crooning "Crazy for You" to Will. The possibilities are endless. I almost can't take it.

2. Colin Egglesfield and Ashlee Simpson-Wentz are off "Melrose Place:" I sum it up like this, right decision with Ashlee, totally wrong decision with Colin. I don't think there's anything the show could do at this point to salvage Violet. She, Annie from "90210," and Billie from "Accidentally on Purpose," should go off and form their own annoying sitcom together. But I really liked the Auggie character. On a show that is clearly struggling, he was one of the more interesting characters and certainly had a lot of potential.It makes me even more worried about the show that the network couldn't see that. 

3. FOX pulls "Dollhouse" for November sweeps: Enjoy tonight's episode of "Dollhouse" (Friday, FOX, 9 p.m.) because after tonight, the show won't be back on the schedule until December 4. And when it comes back, FOX will air the episodes back to back on Friday night. This makes me extremely nervous. Not only isn't it a vote of confidence, it's usually the first sign of cancellation. I'm trying not to panic but this is not looking good.

What do you think of the big TV stories this week? Talk about it below.

Where Have I Seen Them Before?

Ryan recognized Navi Rawat, Amita on "Numb3rs," as Maya on "FlashForward." She was also Theresa on "The O.C."

Reed Diamond was the husband who switched the babies at birth on "Castle." We saw Diamond last season on "Dollhouse" as Laurence Dominic and in this season premiere of "Monk" as the FBI agent who needed Monk to pose as a mob boss. He was also Jack on "Journeyman," Stuart on "Judging Amy," and Detective Mike Kellerman on "Homicide."

Dan recognized Travis Schuldt as the agent Walter experimented on on "Fringe." He was Elliot's boyfriend Keith on "Scrubs."

Robin recognized Hallee Hirsh as Carol on "Criminal Minds." Hirsh was Mark's daughter Rachel on "ER" and she popped up on the series premiere of "90210" as Andrea's daughter Hannah Vasquez.

Jon Seda was the police detective convinced he was going to die when he was 40 on "House." Seda was Detective Paul Falsone on "Homicide" and Ray on "Close to Home."

Marshall Allman was Danny Farrell, the brother of the teacher Don's having an affair with on "Mad Men." Allman was LJ on "Prison Break."

Alexie Gilmore was the patient who needed a kidney transplant on "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice." Gilmore was Dr. Sara Dillane on the short-lived FOX series "New Amsterdam."

Quotes of the Week

"Punching your employees, even I know not to do that in public." Wilhelmina to Daniel on "Ugly Betty."

"I have mercury poisoning from constantly taking my rectal temperature." Jenna to Liz on "30 Rock." Ah the entertainment industry will never tire of making fun of Jeremy Piven. Thanks to Mark for the quote.

"Question 1. Do you want to be a Canadian? Question 2. Really?" Barney's version of the Canadian citizenship test on "How I Met Your Mother." Thanks to Barry for the quote.

"This place is better than a telenovela." Dr. Bailey while visiting Oceanside Wellness on "Private Practice."

"When my Mom applied to college she put being popular as her main extra-curricular activity, and she got into Arizona State." Quinn to Emma on "Glee." Thanks to Caitlin for the quote.

"And I'm not sneaking in the window Katie Holmes style. 'Dawson's Creek?' Forget it. You were too young." Dixon's older girlfriend to Dixon on "90210."

"That could have gone one of two ways, but I never expected her to be upset." Michael after he tells Pam he's dating her mother on "The Office."

Exchanges of the Week

"No wonder she hates him." An intern observing Cuddy and House on "House."

"That's not hate. It's foreplay." Another intern's response.

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"Mommy, she's not Margaret. She's Jane. She's my wife."  Roger to his mother when his mother calls Jane by his daughter's name on "Mad Men."

"Does Mona know?" Roger's mom's response.

"Yes she knows." Jane's response.

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"You know some people appreciate my sense of humor." Evan to Ashleigh on "Greek."

"Some people appreciate Crocs." Ashleigh's response.

That's all for today. I'm back next week to talk about my love for Tim Riggins, I mean with a review of the fourth season premiere of "Friday Night Lights." I'll also have a round-up of some of the most exciting events coming our way during November sweeps. And don't forget that Joan is finally back on "Mad Men" this Sunday (all together now "Hooray!") Have a question? Seen a familiar face? Want to nominate a quote of the week? Write me at amytvgal@zap2it.com or follow me on Twitter. Have a great weekend. Talk to you on Monday.

 

Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal

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