With a glut of criminal investigation shows flooding primetime, CBS is hoping to cash in on yet another rehash of the tired formula with “Numb3rs.”
A combination of “C.S.I.” and calculus, “Numb3rs” features all the hallmarks of its successful cousins with black and white flashbacks and slow-motion imagery. In addition to collecting evidence, the detectives use mathematical functions to track down the murderer.
The show centers on FBI Special Agent Don Epps (Rob Morrow, “Northern Exposure”). In the pilot, his team investigates a string of rapes and murders. When Don’s mathematician brother, Charlie (David Krumholtz, “The Santa Clause”), snoops through the case files, he begins piecing together a series of equations to pinpoint the perpetrator’s location. Charlie’s formula, like this show’s premise, is not perfect.
In addition to standard plot conventions, “Numb3rs” also features classic crime show characters. The supporting cast includes several underdeveloped roles, including Terry Lake (Sabrina Lloyd, “Sports Night”) and David Sinclair (Alimi Ballard, “Dark Angel”) who exist merely to collect evidence, become imperiled and set up the main character to save the day. Also present is the stereotypically gruff chief who knows less than he should.
Unlike other crime investigation shows, “Numb3rs” includes healthy doses of the characters’ personal lives. The Epps brothers’ father, Alan (Judd Hirsch, “Taxi”) provides comic relief when meddling in his boys’ relationships. Furthermore, Dr. Larry Fleinhardt (Peter MacNicol, “Ally McBeal”), an older colleague, helps Charlie in his pursuit of higher learning. Both of these mentor figures have just a handful of scenes in the pilot.
While “Numb3rs” creates a new twist on a familiar theme, several plot holes exist in its premise: Why does the FBI give Charlie access to classified FBI files? If this method solves so many crimes, why doesn’t the FBI have someone doing this already? Who knows what any of these equations really mean?
Alas, the most original aspect of the “Numb3rs” may also be its most distancing, as the vast majority of viewers’ least favorite high school subject will not entice them into the story. Its believability hinges on Charlie’s equations. As a result, the audience will either be drawn in by its intellect or turned off by its complexity.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars