Buddy cop shows have been around for so long they’re no longer exclusive to cops or even buddies. The relationships on these series often cross the border between friendship and something more inseparable. “Psych” tended to spoof this minuet of co-dependence. The new odd-couple series “White Collar” (9 p.m., USA) takes it to a stranger extreme.
When first seen, conman Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) is shaving his handsome face, donning a prison-guard uniform and sauntering out of a maximum-security prison. He’s recaptured by his FBI nemesis Peter (Tim DeKay), and we soon learn that Neal’s real weakness is the torch he’s carrying for a mystery woman.
Peter concludes that Neal is more valuable to him as a partner shackled to an ankle transmitter than locked away in the pen. And during the course of the pilot, the fed uses the ex-con to pursue a master forger.
This familiar story unfolds in a rocky, cobbled-together debut episode that seems awkwardly condensed from a longer effort. At one point, Neal sweet-talks his way into living in the mansion of a Park Avenue socialite (Diahann Carroll). It’s a nice arrangement, but our society lady seems to vanish as soon as she’s introduced.
We’re reminded repeatedly that Peter has spent much more time obsessing about Neal than his pretty and levelheaded wife, Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen). In the end, Peter’s prey and partner/prisoner even provides a spot for his captor to re-woo the missus.
As cops, cons and robbers shows go, “Collar” seems slightly less convoluted than TNT’s “Leverage.” But the emphasis remains on Neal and his considerable charms. His patroness has given him the run of the wardrobe of her late husband, a man whose tastes stopped during the Rat Pack era, giving Neal more than a whiff of “Mad Men.” And his charisma seems to be catnip to the ladies, and at least one FBI agent.
• As episodes of “Monk” (8 p.m., USA) dwindle down to a precious few, Sharona (Bitty Schram), Adrian’s original nurse and sidekick, returns to settle some business in San Francisco.
She brings with her a little East Coast accent, attitude and energy that plays so well against Adrian’s repressed personality. But you have to wonder why they have to dress Sharona — who’s now the mother of a college-age son back in New Jersey — like a tramp.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Eli’s patient (Chad Lowe) thinks he sees his sister’s spirit on “Ghost Whisperer” (7 p.m., CBS).
• The defense team for a doctor’s murderer puts reproductive rights on trial on “Law & Order” (7 p.m., NBC).
• Joe fears Allison has crossed an emotional line on “Medium” (8 p.m., CBS).
• The six-part documentary “Monty Python: Almost the Truth” (8 p.m., IFC) concludes.
• A scientist’s unstable wife becomes a suspect in their daughter’s kidnapping on “Numb3rs” (9 p.m., CBS).
• MTV sends up one of its popular franchises as the horror film “My Super Psycho Sweet 16” (9 p.m., MTV).
If it’s Friday, it must be Tuesday! A stranger (Anthony Perkins) pretends to be a spy to impress a blond (Tuesday Weld) in the 1968 feature “Pretty Poison” (1:15 a.m., TCM). Weld also stars in “Lord Love a Duck” (2:45 a.m.).