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Genre: TV series, Cop, Drama
Country: United States
Starring: Rob Morrow, David Krumholtz, Peter MacNicol, Judd Hirsch, Navi Rawat, Alimi Ballard, Dylan Bruno, Aya Sumika, Sophina Brown
Creators: Nicolas Falacci, Cheryl Heuton
Producers: Ridley Scott, Tony Scott
Run time: 16 hours 23 minutes
DVD distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Related reviews: Numbers Season Five
Numb3rs is a show with a laudable premise. It attempts to educate people about the glorious, bad-ass side of math and physics while entertaining them and catching bad guys. You see, the cops have recruited a mathematical genius to help them solve their more difficult cases. Which, in the end, could really make for a cool show. But…we don’t get that. What we get is a pretty standard template for each episode. A crime is committed, and the cops are investigating. Which proceeds like a normal cop show, with regular filming and standard acting. Then the cops hit a snag, and the math guy happens to be walking by. He comes up with a way to solve the problem, mathematically. He explains this theory using some kind of analogy, and the camera starts jump-cutting, switches to black and white, and the soundtrack funks up. Like the math portion of this show is a music video, while the rest is CSI: Nerd. The math portion, it turns out, is either something obvious the cops should be doing anyway, or it’s a stretch on credibility that this mathematical solution could ever be applied to this problem.
The one episode in the Fourth Season that illustrates this best is one that has to do with street racing. To determine exactly what happened when a street racer crashes into a café and kills a man, the math guy turns to an engineer friend who happens to have the exact car-crash simulation software that can solve the case. Over the course of several music-video-edited montages, he discovers that someone else must have crashed into the car before it ran into the café. After many analogies and simulations, they determine what exactly happened, and then – it has nothing to do with the resolution of the episode. At all. It turns out the real question is “who murdered the street car racing driver”, and not “how did this happen”. In fact, the math stuff makes no difference whatsoever to the outcome of the show. But then, that’s fairly standard with this program. The mathematical “genius” moments are shoehorned in without really being essential to any episode.
Now, there are some good actors on this program, and the actual cop stuff is just about as good as any of the cop stuff on other similar programs. But the one thing that slows the show down is the one thing that is supposed to make it unique. And that’s too bad. Using an analogy to the behaviour of lions and jackals when discussing the behavious of humans who are being blackmailed doesn’t ring true. Then the mathematical model that will plug the name of the real killer into the equation strains credibility. Anyone who thinks they are learning something about math by watching Numb3rs is mistaken. I’m not even sure they will be entertained. Numb3rs, Season Four comes out on DVD Tuesday, September 30th from Paramount Home Entertainment.