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Review of 'Numb3rs'
January 22, 2005
Who says TV producers lack creativity? When it comes to crime procedurals, they've been able to slice and dice the genre in ways so fine that physicists who split atoms should be jealous.
Just this month, we got a sleuth who solves crimes with psychic powers ("Medium"), and now we have an FBI agent who calls on his genius brother to track down bad guys with math. What next? A blind detective? Oh, that's right, there is one in ABC's "Blind Justice," scheduled to premiere in March.
"Numbers" stars Rob Morrow and David Krumholtz as brothers Don and Charlie Eppes. Don is a hard-working, dedicated FBI agent who, in the premiere, heads up a task force to find a serial rapist who, of late, has decided to add murder to his criminal repertoire. Charlie, straight out of "A Beautiful Mind," is an absent-minded mathematical genius who can fill a blackboard with numbers and symbols faster than a College Bowl team can calculate the length of a hypotenuse.

That's good and that's bad. It's good because it offers a new way to look at a tired genre and presents an unconventional but interesting relationship, albeit one without large amounts of chemistry. It's bad because, at least in the opener, the focus of creator-writers Nick Falacci and Cheryl Heuton is so clearly on crime solving and the two brothers that it squanders the talents of one of the finest casts assembled for any series. Sabrina Lloyd does little but play Officer Frank Smith to Morrow's Sgt. Joe Friday. As for Judd Hirsch (the father of the brothers), Peter MacNicol (Charlie's physicist friend) and Anthony Heald (Don's boss), they represent some of the most talented window dressing seen in years.

There are a few other problems. The show, set in Los Angeles, creates a world in which city crime is tackled exclusively by the FBI. Charlie travels everywhere by bicycle. Hello. This is L.A. What's the mathematical probability of that happening? There's also a beautiful foreign student (Navi Rawat) working on her thesis with Charlie, but she says little and mostly just follows him around. A love interest? Maybe, maybe not. The premiere is annoyingly vague on her availability.

Production qualities are excellent, and graphics and special effects never let you forget the math component in the story. Exec producer Mimi Leder, who directed the premiere, frames the action tightly and well. Still, the series, a replacement for "Dr. Vegas," faces long odds against NBC's popular "Medical Investigation" and ABC's veteran "20/20."

Cast: Don Eppes: Rob Morrow; Charlie Eppes: David Krumholtz; Terry Lake: Sabrina Lloyd; Alan Eppes: Judd Hirsch; David Sinclair: Alimi Ballard; Larry Fleinhardt: Peter MacNicol; Walt Merrick: Anthony Heald; Amita Ramanujan: Navi Rawat; Kate Silber: Karen Norby.

Executive producers: Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Brooke Kennedy, Alex Gansa; Co-executive producers: Nick Falacci, Cheryl Heuton, David W. Zucker; Creators-teleplay: Nick Falacci, Cheryl Heuton; Director: Mick Jackson; Director of photography: Ivan Strasburg; Production designer: Richard Hoover; Editor: Jan Northrop; Casting: Mark Saks.

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