Several television shows have been made that feature the FBI or police investigating different crimes. Some of the shows end up being very similar. Numb3rs is a bit different, something that helps it to stand out. I recently picked up Numb3rs - The Complete First Season when I found it priced reasonably.
Recommend this product?
Numb3rs is an hour long drama that aired on CBS from 2005 to 2010. I have seen episodes airing in syndication late at night on the weekend on the local CBS station. I don’t know if it is airing on any other stations or not. All six seasons of the series have been released on DVD.
The series follows FBI agent Don Epps and the various crimes he investigates with his team around Los Angeles. Don ends up consulting with his math genius brother Charlie who is able to use complex equations to help the investigations. Charlie, who is a professor at California Institute of Science gets help from his grad student Amita and theoretical physicist Larry at times. The brothers are shown working at their respective jobs in every episode. Some time is taken to show the relationship between the brothers and their father Alan. It is also shown how Charlie interacts with the other FBI agents. Those relationships do change and grow over the course of the first season.
The episodes begin by sharing some statistics that relate to the crime that will be dealt with in the episode. Don and his team start their investigation within the first few minutes. In Uncertainty Principal, the investigation is already underway, with Don and his team attempting to catch bank robbers, but things go wrong. In a few episodes, the crime is seen, and then it will jump to when Don and his team arrive. In some episodes, especially later in the season, Charlie is with Don at that point, starting to help. Charlie uses math in some way - sometimes creating his own equations to fit the situation - to help solve the case. Don and his team don’t specialize in any one type of crime, so all kinds are featured.
Complicated math is used in every episode during the first season of Numb3rs. The equations are seen throughout the episodes. In some scenes, they are in the background on a chalkboard or some other type of board while characters talk. Other scenes are more focused on the equations, showing while Charlie writes them out and works on them. I have taken a few algebra classes, but these equations are way over anything I ever learned to do. I have no idea how accurate they are, but they look believable. I have read that real mathematicians worked as consultants on the show to help with the math.
Charlie does mention some well known equations or theories, including Schrodinger’s Cat, something that has come up a few times in The Big Bang Theory. Charlie uses something he calls squish-squash in the episode Noisy Edge. I’d never heard of that before, but I looked it up, and it is real. It was developed by Dr. Michael Kouritizin, a math professor at the University of Alberta. Before watching this show, I wouldn’t have thought that math could be used for so many different types of crimes. The pilot has Charlie coming across a file for a rape case that Don is working on. Charlie then says that he can use math to help them find the rapist. It is really interesting how math is used for the show and I think it helps to make the show entertaining. I have no idea if some of the things Charlie figures out with math are actually possible, but the show makes them seem plausible.
Charlie ends up explaining a theory or equation in the episodes. Larry and Amita also do this at times. Don and the FBI agents aren’t stupid, but they aren’t as good with math, so Charlie has to explain things in a simpler way for them to understand. That works to explain things to the audience as well in a way that isn’t talking down to them. Charlie’s explanations make sense and I could understand them - but not enough to do the math - I don’t know how accurate they are. When Charlie is explaining something, some visual effects are used to help illustrate the explanation. A different effect, referred to as Charlie vision, is used when Charlie gets an insight or figures something out. That effect sort of illustrates the way Charlie thinks and connects things.
A little bit of action does turn up in many of the episodes in the first season of Numb3rs, usually when Don and the agents are trying to make an arrest. There are a few chases and some shooting that adds some violence. People do get injured or killed, but the violence isn’t that extreme. The cases that Don work on do add a bit of mystery to what is going on, though they aren’t that complicated. With how long the episodes are, there just isn’t time to make them more complex. Despite that, the cases are interesting.
Don and Charlie’s relationship, along with their relationships with their father Alan, is also important to the first season of Numb3rs. It is made clear that they all have good relationships, though there are some issues too. Charlie has been known to get very wrapped up in his work, and it even starts to happen during Uncertainty Principal. It comes out that he did that and basically shut everyone out when his mother got sick. That caused him to not know a few things tied to Don. From what happens, it seems like Charlie has trouble dealing with certain things which makes him more susceptible to losing himself in his work. That does get dealt with somewhat. I like that attention is given to the family. Some of the moments between them add some humor to the show as well, like when Don and Alan play chess against Charlie.
While both brothers are important to the series, I think Charlie gets a little more attention. He is brilliant with math and able to help in investigations, but he has a little trouble with some social situations. He is a little absent minded at times. Charlie is an interesting, likable character and David Krumholtz handles the part well. Don has been with the FBI for a while. He’s a good agent who is focused on his work. Rob Morrow is good in the part. Alan is a retired city planner who tries to spend time with both of his songs. Judd Hirsch is good in the part.
Amita is a grad student and Charlie is her thesis advisor who is in some of the episodes. She ends up helping Charlie and the FBI at times. By the end of the season, she talks about finishing her current degree and starting work on another in astro physics. It is hinted that she and Charlie may be interested in each other. Navi Rawat is good in the part. Larry teaches physics and a bit of a mentor to Charlie. Larry also helps Charlie and the FBI. He isn’t around a lot, but I like Peter MacNicol in the part. Terry Lake is one of the agents working with Don. They do have a history. David is a newer agent who starts working with Don and Terry. Alimi Ballard is good in the part.
Numb3rs - The Complete First Season is available on DVD. I don’t think it is on Blu-ray. The thirteen episodes of the season are on four discs. There are commentaries on some episodes. The fourth disc also includes more extras that discuss different aspects of the show, including the math. Originally the show was going to be set in Boston. There were other differences as well, including the cast. Krumholtz is the only one in the unaired pilot who made it into the final version of the show. There are some bloopers that are funny. The extras are entertaining and worth checking out.
Numb3rs is an interesting, entertaining show that offers something a little different from other shows focused on law enforcement. Numb3rs - The Complete First Season is a good DVD set for fans of the show.
This review is part of elvisdo’s 2012 Canadiana Write-off because an episode features a math algorithm developed by Dr. Michael Kouritizin of the University of Alberta.