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DVD THIS WEEK: 'White Collar,' 'Dark Blue,' British detectives
July 13, 2010  | By Diane Werts

white collar cast usa.jpg

For somebody I had pretty much never heard of before, Matt Bomer instantly became one of my most anticipated TV sightings last year on White Collar. As soon as I saw this USA romp's slick and witty pilot, I was hooked, and not only because Bomer's such a looker. He's also supremely effective in a tough role -- his cop-helping con man is supposed to be an irresistible charmer. Which is essentially the same as waving a "kick me" sign in front of a critic.

white collar dvd blu-ray.jpgBut Bomer nails it, embodying what series creator Jeff Eastin talks about in the show's new first-season DVD/Blu-ray set's bonus features. Where most TV characters aim to fade into a show's dramatic "reality," Eastin wanted Bomer's Neal Caffrey to be the guy who makes heads turn when he walks in the room. Not as easy as it sounds. Most characters like that are way too obvious, to the point of cloying or annoying, if not utterly implausible. Bomer, on the other hand, seems to naturally radiate sizzle. Yet he registers relatable and sympathetic, for both women and men. He's slick yet sensitive, wearing his soul as plainly as his designer suits.

(To be fair, though, Bomer wasn't exactly an unknown before I woke up to White Collar. I must have seen him in guest arcs on Chuck or Tru Calling, and I know I saw his first lead series, ABC's short-lived Traveler -- but somehow he just didn't compute then.)

As TV's second season of White Collar starts up tonight (at 10 p.m. ET on USA), the first-season discs are hitting shelves. These initial 14 episodes include 5 commentaries, which are rare for including the creator with all four series stars, whose warm affinity here helps explain their relaxed rapport on-screen. The other bonus features do their job of exploring the show's creation, fashion sense, and FBI authenticity. What's missing is a featurette on the show's smartly used New York City locations (though the commentaries touch on some of that).

Other new releases worth watching:

life on mars dvd.jpgLife on Mars: Complete Collection and Touching Evil: Complete Collection -- Both are inventively brooding tales of damaged investigators, and both were "adapted" from these dynamic British hits into namby-pamby American failures. Watch these originals to see where we Yanks went wrong. Both boxes are repackagings of previous separate volumes. But if you don't already have those, these are the place to start (and they're cheaper, too). Life on Mars is packed with the same bonus features found on previous volumes.

Dragnet 1968: Season 2 -- There is no earthly reason for me to be obsessed with watching this paint-by-numbers police saga, but Lord help me, I can't stop. Jack Webb's rat-a-tat dialogue, his ping-pong editing from cop question to prevaricator answer, the pinch-penny drab sets, the pompous moral lecturing of straw-man suspects -- I just can't get enough. The episodes aren't even all that different, really, whether Webb's plainclothes L.A. detective Joe Friday and Harry Morgan's partner Bill Gannon are screening police academy applicants or trying to disarm angry Jan Michael Vincent of a live grenade at a swingin' teen party (as swingin' as these '60s squares can make it). Extras in this first Shout Factory release are what should have been on another distributor's Season 1 set -- the 1966 pilot movie in which Webb resurrected his '50s series for color TV and hippie takedowns, plus a marvelous Webb bio-featurette with testimony from friends and ex-wives. Just the facts, man.

Dark Blue: Season 1 -- Dylan McDermott's TNT drama isn't on store shelves, but can be ordered direct from Warner Archive. Though the widescreen episodes come in retail packaging, they're recorded on 4 purple-surface DVD-R discs. (They're designed for standard DVD players. Some play fine in my laptop drive, some don't.) The only extra is a promo for Season 2, starting Aug. 4 on TNT.


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