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The surprise hit Numb3rs is a brainy take on the crime-drama genre
March 27, 2005
Call it the revenge of the nerds: One of the few genuine hits of this current TV season is a new show in which the central figure isn't a high-tech forensics genius or super spy. The hero of Numb3rs is a mathematics genius named Charlie, played by David Krumholtz, who readily admits the role was a reach for him.
"I might as well tell the truth -- I was terrible at math in school," says Krumholtz. "It was a struggle for me. I did all right with the basic math, but as soon as we hit algebra, that was it. I just didn't get it."
Despite the cumbersome title, Numb3rs has already become a Friday-night tradition with viewers since debuting in January. In the setup, Charlie is a young college professor recruited by his FBI agent brother Don (Rob Morrow) to solve particularly complex crimes.

To whit: Charlie successfully predicted where a group of high-tech robbers would strike next, simply by watching the trajectory of water from a garden hose. "Charlie and Don are brothers, but with entirely different intellects," says Morrow, best known for his breakout role on Northern Exposure. "Sometimes they'll approach a crime scene from opposite directions, but usually they end up meeting in the middle."

Executive-produced by movie heavyweight Ridley Scott, Numb3rs abounds with creative casting: Peter MacNicol (Ally McBeal) plays Dr. Larry Fleinhardt, a brilliant physicist who constantly tries to convince colleague Charlie to abandon his FBI duties. Serving as buffer between the two brothers is their doting mathematician father, Alan, played by Judd Hirsch in another memorable character turn.
"I wasn't looking to commit to an hour-long series," says the TV veteran of Taxi, Dear John and other shows, "but this was more than just another talking-heads crime drama. This is unique for TV. It's partly a family story, partly a crime show, and there are some really funny moments in there, too. And obviously you don't have to be a world-class mathematician to enjoy it, because I'm certainly no math whiz."

Likewise for Krumholtz, who spent considerable time with real-life mathematicians in order to absorb their terminology and develop that deep-in-thought look that comes with intense inner calculations. "This has almost been like learning an entirely new form of acting for me," he says. "Playing a genius, when you're not one, is quite a task."

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