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White Collar as of Season1 - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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White Collar as of Season1 [Oct. 14th, 2011|01:09 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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Regular readers here know that I end up watching a lot of shows on DVD while I have my bike workouts, which are about an hour and a half a day. I like crime shows, and they're particularly good for this purpose, because there is closure and guaranteed pacing. (I generally favor art forms having different pacing available, but that doesn't mean that the really slow-paced things are good for this kind of purpose.) I don't remember who recommended White Collar--I want to say either moiread or laurel, but those are my easy TV guesses--but I finished S1 this week, and I wanted to talk about two very simple things I like about it.

1. Both of the main characters who are partners in solving these crimes are allowed to be very knowledgeable about art and antiquities. Neither of them has to valorize or even represent ignorance. Their jobs include knowing a lot of really detailed artsy crap and having good judgment about it, and they do. I have seen far too many shows--I'm looking at you, Bones, but not just you--where the necessity for exposition is turned into enshrined ignorance as a virtue. I don't like it. This is much better.

2. The main character who is a married federal agent trusts his wife, and she trusts him. (She is also an intelligent, knowledgeable, tasteful person, so they aren't sneaking in the tasteless ignorance with her.) She understands that his job may sometimes require behavior that looks externally a bit suspicious; she knows him and is much more likely to laugh hysterically at the prospect of him having to flirt with someone while undercover than get upset. And when his less straight-arrow partner hands him a plausible lie to tell his wife, he listens to it--and then goes home and tells her the truth anyway.

I like this as a philosophical point, and as contrast to all the shows where the cop's romantic partner Just Doesn't Understand The Job, but I also like it structurally. Because of the show's setup--which I admit is rather silly--there is not a lot of immediate trust between the two main characters, and the one who is not the married federal agent is not in a stable romantic situation either. So having the married fed in a shaky marriage would start to look awfully lot like a statement about the world and trust being impossible--which would in some ways undermine the shaky trust between the two partners, because if you can't trust anyone, it doesn't matter quite so much whether you can trust that guy. Peter's marriage to El demonstrates that he can trust when it is earned and warranted--and thus gives us hope for his working partnership with Neil.

I mentioned the premise being silly, and it is: the premise is that a federal agent in the white collar division has gotten an art thief out of jail on a tracking device to serve as a consultant for various of his cases. If you can get past that, it's a fun show. Oh, the other thing that makes me roll my eyes: they have vehicle product placement that is about as graceful as any other vehicle product placement I've ever seen, which is to say, not very. Anyone who says, "Gosh, I should check out that Ford Taurus! The fictional federal agent in this show says it's got features that protect you from collisions!" is...not of a very analytical bent, let us say. And I know, there are plenty of them out there. Still and all, sheesh. Cut it out, Ford.
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Comments:
From: orbitalmechanic
2011-10-14 07:30 pm (UTC)
Elle and Peter are SUCH a relief. Also adorable.
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[User Picture]From: tiger_spot
2011-10-14 08:53 pm (UTC)
I love that show. It's so cheerful.
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[User Picture]From: blythe025
2011-10-14 09:34 pm (UTC)
Great review of the show. I haven't watched it yet, as it hadn't interested me before. But the relationship between the FBI agent and his wife sounds interesting. I appreciate seeing healthy relationships in television.
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[User Picture]From: moiread
2011-10-14 11:48 pm (UTC)
I can't remember if it was me either, but it's true that I would have happily recommended it as silly, easily-digestible workout television! For me, it was the same but for knitting on brain-dead days. I never did watch past S3, and this has reminded me that I should do so. I could use something cheerful.
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