As a police procedural, it's above average but no more. The portrayal of 1973 is pretty damn' good (I was there) but the lame music video intros show a serious lack of confidence. Relax people, we get it and we don't need Slade to reinforce it.
There are some writing hiccups, as anyone watching the final episode of season one can attest. It may be inconvenient to have to explain how our heroine reaches the roof without tripping over her unconscious colleague or being shot by the armed and desperate bank robber but as writers you need to deal with it. Having our heroine magically appear on the roof isn't good enough. It's lazy and assumes that the audience doesn't care.
The actress who plays the "Jane"character has a difficult role. Although she's cast as the lead, her role is really a supporting one (shades of 70s sexism??) and all the more difficult for that. The angle is a necessary one to set us up for the second season and it takes an actress of strength to deliver. Stephanie Martini (a seriously Ian Fleming name!) delivers a low key, contained performance of great nuance. Much as Helen Mirren might have done.
I, for one, can't wait to see the next chapter of this story. It deserves a second season and perhaps some new recruits to the writing team.
For all it's simplistic world view, the main characters engage you. Real life? Absolutely not. But the show presents moral dilemmas that flesh out the facile story lines and allow the main characters to gain some depth. It's still mind candy but that's OK.
If I have one issue with the show, it's the contempt that it has for its audience. Most of the time, it doesn't show but occasionally the script reveals that disdain. Do you know the difference between China and Japan? Is the Spanish language indistinguishable from Portuguese? According to the writers or perhaps the producers of White Collar the correct answers are No and Yes respectively!
Seriously? The show and you deserve better. These are not mistakes, they are cynical shortcuts, assumptions that the audience will not be able to tell the difference. Even Sam Goldwyn's legendary freedom with historical facts pails before this onslaught of convenient nonsense.
Is this a problem? It should be. Does it spoil the show? Don't let it. Watch the show anyway.
Addendum I've now watched the entire show. It remains consistently good right up to the final episode which is a cracker. Yes, the occasional disregard for the audience is still there, witness the birthdate of Neil's father's partner (1934? Really?) but the show's strengths outweigh all of that. And that final episode? Wow!
Addendum. I've finished the second season and added one star to make it an eight. The characters continue to develop and the storyline stays true to its origins - as do the characters. We have some new players and they are 100% congruent, adding some more texture and some more locations to the story. This is a terrific show. No reservations. It's to the credit of the writers that I want a third season but have no idea where that might take us.
ADDENDUM I've now watched the final four episodes, during which I mentally knocked off a point (episode 8) and put it back on for episode 10. Episode 8 is by far the weakest. It's not that it's bad, it's just that its sensibilities suddenly resembled humdrum American TV and thus became deeply unnerving. It's as though the writers had forgotten, or worse had never understood what made this series so wonderful. Episode 8 was an attempt to broaden the humor at the expense of the humanity. As though someone had pointed out that this was meant to be a comedy. For the record, episode 7 had been a delight and 9, if not special in its own right, at least an improvement on 8. And then there were, or rather was, 10. The finale. The performance towards which everything had led. It's a masterpiece. The perfect summation of and climax to everything that's come before. It's heartstoppingly brave, rolling the emotional dice again and again. It left me breathless, quite literally. Compromises? Not really but we must prepare for a second series and so are denied absolute closure. That final episode was so close to perfection that I hesitate to anticipate a second series. But of course I will. I do. With trepidation.
Since I wrote my original review of the pilot, the series has come and gone. I've watched the first three episodes and want to change nothing I wrote. It's wonderful satire which will be fully appreciated only by those who have lived in England but its real genius lies in its tone. It's found the perfect balance. Nothing that happens is implausible, the tension is visceral and the emotions utterly grounded. But it's funny. Not laugh out loud funny but smart funny. Put a smile on your face when you remember it funny. Unless you still live in England or you are or were a policeman.