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
"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
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
"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."