No matter what day of the week it is you can turn on your TV and find a crime drama of one variety or another. It may be something like Law & Order, CSI or even NCIS but chances are good that no matter what major station you turn to you'll find one. The market is saturated with titles like these but to be fair the viewers seem to be gobbling them up. To the avid watcher it would appear that there isn't any room left on television for another show in this particular genre. Apparently CBS didn't get the memo when they released Numb3rs.
Often referred to by naysayers as CSI: Math (or some variation of that), Numb3rs is actually a sometimes clever little drama with a spin that other series don't have. Instead of just offering a straight forward and generic crime solving adventure every night Numb3rs tosses in a math genius who helps the FBI with mathematical equations. I know it sounds gimmicky...actually, scratch that. It is a gimmick. But with the way that Numb3rs handles itself and its concept the plot device actually seems to works most of the time.
If the show simply just focused on the case in each episode it probably wouldn't be as entertaining as it is. The series spends an equal amount of time following the criminal element and watching the exploits of the Eppes family. The shift in attention helps balance the drama of the series and prevents it from feeling too hokey at times.
Don Eppes is arguably the main character in the show and is portrayed fantastically by Rob Morrow (yes, THE Rob Morrow from Northern Exposure). He's a special FBI agent who burrows himself deep into his work and doesn't have time for much else. He has no love interest or friends it seems because his only real interactions are with his father Alan (Judd Hirsch) and his brother Charlie (David Krumholtz). Determined and passionate are the best ways to describe Don and the way that he approaches his work. Sadly if it wasn't for his relationship with Charlie he'd probably be a wholly generic and dull character.
Charlie Eppes on the other hand is a tad different from his older brother. He's the math genius that his brother and the FBI bring in to assist with cases and spouts off formula like he's reciting a poem. When he's not working with his brother he's teaching at college or digging himself into his work. Charlie often comes across as "special" during several of the episodes, but those flashes of behavior don't seem to be in tune with his personality. In many ways he and his brother are very similar but emotionally they seem to be worlds apart.
Other characters like Alan Eppes, Larry Fleinhardt (Peter MacNicol), Amita Ramanujan (Navi Rawat), and Terry Lake (Sabrina Lloyd) help round out the cast. Everybody in the show works surprisingly well with each other and there seems to be a lot of chemistry. The only real bumps in the road happen when the one episode characters knock the acting quality down a peg. Some of the victims and witnesses that you'll see in this first season are downright laughably portrayed sometimes. I do have to admit though that I was pleasantly surprised to see Neil Patrick Harris appear in an episode.
While Numb3rs is already done with its second season, the first season represents the creators trying to help the show find itself. The first couple of episodes for the series feel kind of awkward as the characters and concept develop. As the season progresses though the cast seems to become more comfortable with their roles and the writing gets much better. Charlie's applied mathematical formulas feel forced at the beginning but as we get to know the character and the producers figure out the best way to handle the idea it gets to feel pretty natural.
The thirteen episodes here all vary in quality, but for the most part I'd call this first season a success. Well, as long as you can open yourself to the possibility that what happens here as some hold on reality that is. I found myself getting into it after a couple of episodes though I still feel that the show is a little too series for its own good. There is a decent blend of humor and personality but trying to approach this concept with a stern face almost makes it a parody of itself.
Still, if you're looking for a criminal drama that is a little off the beaten path you can't really go wrong with Numb3rs. There are enough solid episodes here like "Counterfeit Reality", "Uncertainty Principle", and "Man Hunt" to make the payoff worth it. That's something to be said because frankly I'm tired of the CSI-like shows out there. I had a good time watching Numb3rs once I got into it and am looking forward to seeing where the second season takes the show.
The first season of Numb3rs is presented with a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. The image quality is decent for the most part though there is quite a bit of grain, compression, and soft spots to be found here and there. Sometimes there are even noticeable particles on the lens during some shots. In the pilot episode there appears to be a hair on the camera during an entire scene. Little goofs like this bring into question the budget that Numb3rs has but overall I couldn't find anything else to complain about.
You want audio options, you say? Well, you'll probably feel shunned if you enjoy getting choices on your DVDs. The only audio featured on this disc is a Dolby Digital 5.1 English tack though you can't really turn your nose at that. It does feature some good quality with a decent use of the soundstage though to be fair there are were some moments that could have used a little more "oomph". Along the lines of a lack of options there are no subtitles of any kind either.
A whopping five commentary tracks are included through the season and feature a variety of people discussing topics for "Pilot", "Uncertainty Principle", "Counterfeit Reality", "Sniper Zero" and "Dirty Bomb". I found the commentary tracks to be pretty informative and humorous at times and didn't think they came across as dry as other commentaries do.
After the commentaries are all said and done the last disc in the set houses the supplemental features. Crunching Numb3rs Season One is a twenty minute documentary about the show and how it came to be, the relationships that reside in it, etc. It was interesting and more in depth than the typical documentary of this nature. Point of Origin: Inside the Unaired Pilot was cool because it was a rare look at a rejected pitch. All of the ideas were in place for the episode but it just didn't click enough so it had to be reworked. Eventually the pilot episode featured on this disc was the one that was ultimately accepted.
Some clips from the auditions of Navi Rawat and David Krumholtz are available here with an optional commentary track by the casting director. Up next is a little feature about a math professor from Caltech that offers his assistance on the show. He talks about the show a little bit and offers us a glimpse at a video from a presentation of Numb3rs he did at school. Lastly there is a look at the special effects from season one and a collection of hilarious bloopers.
If you watch CBS at all then you have probably seen spots for Numb3rs. Don't form any preconceptions about it being just another CSI rip off. Yes it's procedural and yes it follows an FBI agent but the mathematical spin and chemistry between actors gives the show a voice of its own. The first part of the premier season feels a little awkward but it gets better as the thirteen episodes progress.
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