2011-01-09 Entry: "Numb3rs - "Pilot""
As may be obvious, my "alphabetically" hasn't really held up. I got bored, and the next couple on the list will have to be ones I come back to when I'm feeling up to the chore of watching them.
Meanwhile, we skip ahead to a CBS drama from 2005, and considering it's CBS, it'll be unsurprising to see it's a police procedural...
Aspect Ratio: 16:9.
So we open with a woman's body in a construction yard, and this is the 13th rape victim with the same MO (they've got an identical burn mark), although this is the first death. And Don Eppes of the FBI is the agent in charge.
And then the slightly clunky title sequence with the whole "we use math every day" quote that's the hook for this show - it's all about the mathematics they use to help solve the crime. Or, it would be if they didn't start having to spend most of their time on the characters relationships because the maths wasn't enough to carry a whole episode! But at least, for the pilot, the maths should be enough to carry the story!
Working with Don are Terry Lake (Sabrina Lloyd) and newly assigned David Sinclair (Alimi Ballard). Meanwhile, the other half of the cast, the brains, are Don's brother, Charlie, who is racing "extreme gravity vehicles" downhill rather than work on Larry Fleinhardts maths (Larry's a physicist who doesn't do his own maths apparently), and he's ably assisted by Amita (for whom he's acting as thesis advisor, which is the excuse that keeps them apart... or would if not for Amita's arranged marriage that she's avoiding). But their home-life includes Eppes senior, Alan, and it's here that Charlie gets his first look at the case file even though he shouldn't. And it's this viewing that sparks his interest in helping solve the case.
Cue lots of crazy maths involving a sprinkler and being able to calculate back to find where the serial killer lives. Back at the FBI, they're trying to track down the movements of the victim during her last day, as well as the dead girl's missing car. But Charlie's got his head into the maths and has completely forgotten that he agreed to help Larry. Fortunately, Amita reminds him, and Larry's physics background may be able to help with the work... or at least give him a good idea while trying to persuade him that he's getting distracted from his real work in pure mathematics.
That good idea gives them a clear indication of what neighbourhood the killer may live in, but the discovery of the victim's car leads them to find a previous rape victim has been revisited and killed this time. But that revisited victim lied about the original location of the rape, and that gives Charlie a better definition of where the killer lives. Unfortunately the FBI have already DNA checked every male in that area, and control of the case gets taken away from Don because of it.
Larry suggests to Charlie that his solution is too neat - he's dealing with human beings, and they're rarely if ever as neat and tidy as the elegant maths solution would indicate. Fortunately, Alan manages to spot what they're missing - that they've actually got two hot zones: a "home" zone and a "work" zone. And that gives them a suspect.
This is a really tightly written pilot - there's very little slack and they bounce back and forth between the FBI stuff and the maths stuff really smoothly. Don and Charlie are both really well characterised here, with the same focus on their jobs and helping people, and some of the incidental characters (Alan, Amita, Larry) get just enough to give you a sense of where they're going with them. Unfortunately, Terry and Sinclair are both pretty much cyphers at this point - we know why they're on screen (as otherwise the FBI would consist of one guy), but we don't know a single thing about them at the moment.
I can't vouch for the accuracy of any of the mathematics that's actually presented, as I've forgotten more than I remember, but at least at this point in the series, it all looks and sounds plausible, and like CSI before it, it's nice to have a show properly grounded in the science behind it.
So based on the pilot, it's looking like a good show; it's just disappointing that the hook of the show, the maths itself, doesn't really sustain a show for the length of time a US network insists on airing it for and that it eventually became more of a character driven piece than a maths driven piece.