‘White Collar’: old-fashioned capers in modern New York

After an odd five-month break, season three of the USA series “White Collar” will resume Tuesday night at 9 with six new episodes running through Feb. 21.

It’s the sort of bizarre scheduling that can kill a good show, and this sleek, shot-in-New York series is a good one, judging by the three January episodes I was sent recently.

Can you arrive as a total newbie in the middle of the season of a show that has been on since 2009? I did, and had fun watching, once I got over some confusing cliffhanger elements (left over from the summer run on USA).

Fortunately, the rest of the episodes appear to be designed as stand-alones so the Jan. 24 and Jan. 31 stories were much more satisfying. I had a great time with these comic capers — the first one a “Rear Window” variation set in Cobble Hill Brooklyn and the second an amusing tale of financial services corruption that takes place in a snooty private school.

With its low violence and sex quotients, “White Collar” has an old-fashioned mystery feel similar to that of the ABC hit “Castle,” which is also rather far-fetched but very entertaining.

The set-up for “White Collar” is simple. A smart and sexy young con artist played by Matt Bomer has been roped into helping the FBI as part of a deal that might get him a full pardon for his crimes.

Matt’s handler, Peter Burke (Tim DeKay), has mixed feelings about working with a convicted felon, but Neal’s criminal brain comes in very handy in tackling particularly complex heists. One of Neal’s old grifter cronies — played by Willie Garson (Carrie’s gay pal on “Sex & the City,” above, right) — helps out, too.

“White Collar” is smarter and funnier than most of its competition, but it only seems to be a matter of time before the very charismatic Matt Bomer crosses over to movies (he was in “In Time” last summer and will appear in the forthcoming Steven Soderbergh picture “Magic Mike”).

Now I want to catch up with seasons one and two on DVD.