October 15, 2009

Catch a caper…

Posted in Between Us column, Relationships, Television at 3:45 am by dinaheng

Breaking the law isn’t just a matter of right and wrong.

The difference between good guys and bad guys tends to blur a lot on television these days. I suspect it’s because we’ve come to understand that human beings are not purely good or totally evil. We all have the capacity to act both ways.dinah-eng-21

The latest crime show to spotlight a buddy relationship between the good cop and not-so-bad thief is USA Network’s “White Collar,” starring Matt Bomer as criminal mastermind Neal Caffrey, who agrees to help Tim DeKay, his FBI nemesis Peter Burke, solve  crimes in order to stay out of prison.

The show, which premieres Friday, Oct. 23 at 10 p.m. Eastern, teams the two men in a weekly hunt for white collar criminals, reminiscent of the 1960s spy series, “It Takes A Thief,” which aired on ABC from 1968 to 1970.

In that show, debonair thief Alexander Mundy (played by Robert Wagner) agreed to steal for the government in exchange for his freedom, teaming with Secret Intelligence Agency boss Noah Bain (Malachi Throne) for their weekly adventures.

Nearly 40 years later, DeKay says it’s a lot of fun to work on a show where the capers revolve around museums, banks and art galleries, rather than gory murders and violence.

“These shows are an escape, and this one has great heart,” DeKay says. “These two men care for each other, but they’ll never say it. Men never say they care enough to their good friends. We express it by teasing each other.”

DeKay’s character is a straight-laced G-Man who teaches his charming, con man cohort that there’s more to life than chasing after money. In turn, the thief extraordinaire teaches the dedicated lawman a thing or two about how to deepen his relationship with his wife Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen).

“Peter doesn’t have the kind of freedom that Neal has, but Neal envies Peter’s home life —  the fact that he has a wife and security,” DeKay says. “There’s safety in being on the side of the law, and to be able to enjoy the adventure of solving the case. For Peter, it’s more important to have safety and security, because he gets enough adventure chasing the criminals.”

Escaping into the entertainment of a TV show is probably a lot more fun than the adventures most of us face every day at work. Navigating office politics and dealing with personal relationships isn’t for the faint of heart.

If we’re lucky, we too, have a safety net at home with a family that loves us, even when we screw up.

“Sometimes we forget how good we have it, until we see something through someone else’s eyes,” DeKay says. “”I’ve loved to pretend my whole life. I went from playing cowboys and Indians to being in plays through college. I realized, this is my life. I love to watch people and the behaviors they have.

“Other than the technical aspects of the FBI on this show, I learn more about myself, humanity, and our psyche. I learn most that I’ve got a lot of learning to do.”

So what would DeKay steal, if he could get away with it?

“I’ve always wanted to steal a pie off a window sill,” DeKay says, laughing. “I love food. That’s where I’d break the law.”


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