The term “white collar” brings to mind a guy who frames his Ivy League college degree and boosts his confidence with offhanded, pretentious references to the good ol’ college days. In reality, he’s probably a slave to the workplace just like everybody else. USA’s new series “White Collar” plays off of these stereotypes as the brilliant love child of the good cop and sort-of-bad cop genres. The show is neither cheesy nor predictable, and it makes fun of itself. If “White Collar” keeps it up, it will easily lure generic cop show viewers into its snare.

“White Collar”

Fridays at 10 p.m.
USA

Matthew Bomer (“Chuck”) stars as Neal Caffrey, a con artist who escapes from prison only to be caught by Agent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay, “The New Adventures of Old Christine”). Agent Burke needs a guy around with real street intuition, not textbook intellect, and Caffrey’s quick wit and street smarts land him a deal with Burke that keep the con man out of jail. The catch is that Caffrey must get along with the agent who has put him away twice already. The result is a cop working alongside a clever repeat offender, the two confined to the daily grind of a real job — ankle tether and all, just in case.

Bomer and DeKay have real chemistry, and the show has a satirical flare to it. Living up to its name, the show hints at the fact that white collar does not connote “high class” or intellectualism. In the first episode alone, Agent Burke found a number of opportunities to ridicule his agents on their inability to pick up on clues, asking, “Okay … who here graduated from Harvard? Oh, don’t raise your hands!” It’s almost a slap in the face to cop shows whose main characters rattle off fact after fact so quick you’d think they were fed the lines.

Caffrey’s antics are abundant throughout the pilot. The line separating “good” cop from “bad” cop is blurry and that’s what makes “White Collar” great. Does “good” refer to the side of the law, or the ability to do a job well? Caffrey’s morals are questionable, but his antics in the first episode prove he’s a pretty damn good cop. On the other hand, those Harvard lads are stumped when it comes to the schemes of the real world.

If “White Collar” continues its playful mockery of the over-done cop genre, it’ll be a refreshing escape from the typically cool-hued seriousness of other crime and order shows. Hopefully the writers have enough conniving tricks up their sleeves to keep us convinced that a college degree ain’t all that important anyway. “White Collar” manages to deflate college graduates and bring them back into the world they thought for a moment they’d transcended — one where memorized facts are mostly meaningless.

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