The creators of Numb3rs apparently set out to develop a dramatic series about mathematicians, but somewhere along the way they wandered back onto the beaten path with a detective show starring Rob Morrow (Northern Exposure) as solemn FBI special agent Don Eppes. Numb3rs distances itself from the CSI wannabes by focusing on the mathematical skills of Don’s eccentric genius brother Charlie, played by the pleasantly intense David Krumholtz. The two brothers spur each other on, each contributing to the unfurling of a complicated theory. In the debut episode, Charlie proposes that he can predict the whereabouts of a vicious serial killer by looking at a map of the crime scenes. “It’s not about numbers,” Don says skeptically, to which Charlie retorts, “Everything is about numbers.” We know when he has an insight because the screen flickers with a stream of images that makes math look awfully pretty.
Produced by brothers Ridley (Blade Runner) and Tony Scott, this looks like one of the more promising debuts this month (not a huge compliment considering the lame competition). Hopefully the show won’t focus entirely on the detective plot but will also explore Charlie’s plight. Torn between living in the real world and drifting in his own head, he is guided by two opposing voices: his down-to-earth dad (Judd Hirsch) and his flighty mentor (Peter MacNicol), who urges him to help “redefine the nature of reality” instead of fooling around with FBI high jinks. But Charlie has an important message for all those kids out there skipping trig class: Math saves lives.