The feds are highly confused
by the very proposal and understandably skeptical. Reluctant brother
Don, who has doubts of his own, falls into the unenviable position
of making his brother's case while uncertain of it himself. As you
might guess, Charlie's approach has its ups and downs, its false
starts and mistakes, but ultimately he solves the crime.
When Don warns his brother that math won't help
with all criminal investigations, Charlie gets to deliver the series
mantra: "Everything," he says, "is numbers."
Surreal illustrations of mathematical images and equations provide
quick, visual inserts on this series the way microscopic scientific
details fuel so many TV crime procedurals. The human drama, meanwhile,
will clearly be the tug-of-war between Don's brawn and Charlie's
brain, providing the ongoing object lesson that success in life
takes both, as well as examples aplenty of the now-patented stubborn
determination shared by the multitude of police investigators populating
That familiarity is a big problem. If this were
the first crime procedural, hooray. Ironically, the title unintentionally
raises the question of how many of these we'll have to endure before
the crime lab cash cow runs dry. In addition, "Numb3rs"
(whose regular time slot will be 9 p.m. Fridays) has its own dramatic
problems. The pilot doesn't do a very good job of making Charlie's
case. Not only confusing, the solution is somewhat contradictory,
at least to us math novices out there. And the tricky mix of investigative
detail and smidgen of human drama typical in these shows is not
very well balanced here. The friction between brothers is almost
too slight, and the family scenes (the boys' menschlike father is
played by Judd Hirsch) are strangely and awkwardly staged, as well
as half-baked. Hirsch, something of a TV icon, is largely wasted.
The series also, of course, is an important return
for Morrow, such a compelling, quirky center on that ultra-eccentric
TV classic "Northern Exposure." Alas, clearly in an effort
to break his nerdy, quarrelsome image, here Morrow plays a macho,
pithy Cro-Magnon, a brooding bully, a character constructed through
an almost methodlike acting style. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast,
including Krumholtz, engage in everyday realism. At times, Morrow
seems not in the same family with Krumholtz and Hirsch, and at others
not even in the same TV series. He's in a world of his own.
Things may well improve after the pilot
-- the premise has promise, to be sure. The challenge for "Numb3rs"
will be to keep viewers returning long enough for it to matter.