Numb3rs: Season Four
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Numb3rs: Season Four

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One of the oldest and most enduring genres on television is the crime drama. For as long as the family TV has been a staple in the living rooms around the country people have been tuning in to watch a intrepid detective hunt for clues and bring the criminal to justice. Usually the detective was on the police department or even better, a private investigator. They would wear out the old shoe leather searching for some minute clue that would close the case. Then the landscape on television changed radically and the use of the forensic sciences began to dominate detective series. This high tech approach is excellent but it took the shows almost to the level of science fiction. One series has been a staple on CBS for four years now, ‘Numb3rs’. In this series it is the power of mathematics that saves the day. The hero doesn’t out run or out shoot the bad guy his out thinks him. ‘Numb3rs’ is an intelligent show that is also filled with action. It successfully challenges the past concept of the detective series and gives it a unique twist. Many of us have taken the mandatory math classes in school wondering how this would ever help in real life. In this series it is a mastery of math that helps the FBI bring in the bad guys each week. While this may seem like a desert dry premise for a show it is far from tohat. Over he now four years that it has been on the air it has moved from what most would think as a one trick pony into a gripping character driven drama. There is one other thing that is noteworthy about this show. The math that is used is real and while the applications employed in a particular episode may be pushing things a bit it could be used as described here. This is not only entertaining but it is educational. When was the last time you learned something while watching a crime drama? When it comes time to explain the doctoral level math concepts to the clueless FBI agents the audience is treated to a real life example that makes it easy to understand. The forth season of the series was a pivotal one and it is now on DVD thanks to CBS-Paramount. If you are already a fan it is certain that you have been awaiting this release. For those out there new to the show this is one to get so you are up to speed when the fifth season begins.

Although mathematics is the foundation for solving the crime of the week this is a character drama that centers on a pair of completely different brothers. Charlie Epps (David Krumholtz) was a child protégé on advanced mathematics. He was finished with his undergraduate work before completing puberty. He was done with his doctorate while most of the kids his age were planning for their high school prom. As a certified genius Charlie is well respected in his field and now holds a position as a tenured professor at the California Institute of Science. His brother Don (Rob Morrow) was the more outgoing of the brothers. He was great in sports and always a big hit with the ladies. He was intelligent in a more practical way from Charlie and although he was the older brother he always lived in the shadow of Charlie’s genius. He is now a supervisory agent working out of the Los Angeles office of the FBI. Always caught between the two brothers is their father Alan (Judd Hirsch). He is retired now but had worked as a city planner. He was widowed a few years before the start of the series. He sold the family home to Charlie and still lives there with him. In this season Alan has gone back to college to pursue a master’s degree.

This season opens up with the fallout from the previous season’s cliff hanger. One of the members of Don’s team, Colby Granger (Dylan Bruno) was under top secret deep cover that even was a secret to Don and the team. He had been captured and was about toe be tortured to death when he is rescued and gets away. Now he has to deal with the mistrust of all his co-workers and friends. Most hard it was Colby’s partner, David Sinclair (Alimi Ballard) who knows Colby had to lie to him but still feels betrayed. At the start of the season Sinclair’s feelings began to interfere with his field work with Colby to the point that they almost failed in their assignments. It was eventually worked out with the ever sage advice from Alan. Things are also changing significantly for Charlie. After years of flirting he has finally professed his love for his former graduate student and now fellow professor, Dr. Amita Ramanujan (Navi Rawat). They are living together which does make for some awkward moments for Alan. There was a bit of trepidation in Amita about Charlie meeting her parents when they visited from India. At first they were insistent about her marrying only someone from their country but later warmed to Charlie. One of the cases Charlie worked on for the FBI lead him to using a branch of math that normally reveals complex relationships to inter-personal relationships. He uses this as the basis for a book, ‘The Attraction Equation’ which is geared towards non mathematicians and rapidly becomes a best seller. This affords Charlie with a previously unimagined fame and income. Charlie’s former mentor and now best friend Dr. Larry Fleinhardt (Peter MacNicol) has always been eccentric but since his return from a mission on the International Space Station he has been reevaluating every aspect of his life. In this season he had all but dropped out of his academic pursuits to live in a near by monastery. Slowly over this season Larry regains some of his old traits and reenters the scholastic fields.

This is just one of the best written, directed and acted shows around and deserves a wide audience. It may not be listed in the top rated shows but that is a gross lack of justice. This is the kind of show that provides action while developing the ongoing character stories. Many of the stories are ripped from the headlines especially those involving home land security although there are some run of the mill bad guys that have to be captured along the away. Krumholtz is excellent here as Charlie. He plays the role as a young man who has always been set apart trying to make his way in the real world. The popularity of his book and growing relationship with Amita have altered much of what Charlie considered normal. There is a cliff hanger at the close of this season that should jump start season give. Morrow may be best known for his role in "Northern Exposure’ but here demonstrates a talent for both action and drama. He plays Don as a man who has intimacy issues that are now conflicting with all of his life. Judd Hirsch may be familiar in comic roles but here his portrayal of Alan is the heart of the series. He is friend and father figure to all and the most emotionally stable of the lot.

CBS Paramount has all 18 episodes here; the season was cut short by the now infamous Writer’s Guild strike. There are also a set of fascinating extras that will take out deep into the production of the series and the math that is used to make it work. This is one to get and enjoy.

Posted 09/20/08

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