When I left the second season of White Collar I thought the show was decent, and that you did not have to get into much background of Season One to appreciate it. And for some shows the trick is getting you transitioned from interested observer to a more involved fan. And with the third season of the show I think this goal might be realized.
For those unfamiliar with White Collar, Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer, Flightplan) is a convicted white collar criminal assigned to work with the FBI and specifically Peter Burke (Tim DeKay, Get Smart) in an attempt to garner favor and perhaps commutation of his prison sentence by the government. Sometimes he solves these problems on his own, other times he uses the help of Mozzie (Willie Garson, Sex and the City 2), Neal's friend and pipeline to the current criminal underground. The third season picks up where the second left, as a priceless collection of art and precious metals stolen by the Nazis and stored in a U-Boat, has blown up and was feared lost, but as we learn Neal has the stash hidden in a warehouse.
There seems to be a sense that the creative team behind the show has reached a comfort level with the story and characters now, and letting the supporting characters get some more exposition attached to them. Peter's wife Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen, Saved By The Bell) gets a more prominent turn in the season. Neal's fellow agents Diana (Marsha Thomason, Las Vegas) and Clinton (Sharif Atkins, ER) get a moment here and there, but nothing that focuses on a standalone episode.
It is the 'lost' treasure which is the source of so much consternation and serves as a recurring backdrop for several episodes, reminiscent to me of the Baltimore police pursuit of Luther Mahoney in Homicide: Life on the Street. The art begins to effect Neal's relationship with his girlfriend Sara (Hilarie Burton, One Tree Hill), in that she does not know what to expect of him. It effects his friendship with Mozzy, who presumes the loot is just another way to drop off the grid and back to a life of theft.
But it hurts his working and personal relationship with Peter, particularly in an episode where Peter is threatened as a result of Neal's theft. As a result of the actions around the theft and some additional suspicions, an investigating agent is called from Washington, played by Beau Bridges, brother of Jeff. And after a season where Neal questioned himself and the value of his friends in various places, the ending almost seems to find us knowing less about Neal than we did at the beginning. It appears to be a clever decision made by the show's writing team, and one that has a lot of promise.
When it comes to shows that air on the USA Network (known for their 'Characters Welcome' slogan), I normally tend to think they are lite entertainment, fare that is light as the summers in which some of the shows generally air new content. But with the interesting stories it tells combined with solid performances from Romer, DeKay and Garson, it seems like White Collar has only scratched the surface of its potential, and it is markedly better than most summer television shows you are likely to see.
1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen for all 16 episodes of the third season, which are spread over four discs at four episodes per disc. For transparency's sake, I will note that I watched the last two discs on a new TV, so gauge expectations accordingly. But the episodes on the discs look good, with natural images not soiled by edge enhancement or other processing. There is some haloing though it is inherent in the seams between green screen backdrops and practically shot footage. Nice looking material all around.
The show brings back Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and still does some solid work through the season. The soundstage is fairly broad with explosions bringing the low-end out a bit, and some directional effects tend to make for a somewhat convincing experience. The show seems to lack a touch on channel panning, but the dialogue sounds clear and consistent throughout and the show is immersive on the more dynamic moments, it lacks a little on the smaller ones. A minor quabble, as the overall sound is excellent.
Some nice stuff here, though not nearly the amount that was on the second season set. Disc One starts with "Interrogation Room" (5:44), where the cast asks each other questions about things that occurred during the third season. Disc Two has "Jeff Eastin: @ddicted" (3:50) which focuses on the showrunner's Twitter addiction in a humorous way. Disc Four includes a commentary on the finale with Bomer, DeKay, Garson and Easton. It's more watching of the episode than providing useful information, though the group ribbing for a late-arriving Garson is funny. The jovial nature of the track tends to skip the informative side of it, and it can be skipped. Deleted scenes (3:11) do not bring much to the table, and the gag reel (6:48) returns and is still entertaining.
White Collar took a respectable second season and upped its game with great contributions from its cast and crew, along with a bevy of guest stars for single and/or multiple episode arcs. Technically the show continues to impress, though it is less than satisfactory on the supplemental side of things. If you are looking to fill the valley of televised content, I would recommend checking out this set, then check out the show, which is currently airing new episodes as of this writing.