Review: Numb3rs 3.1

Numb3rs

In the US: Fridays, 10pm ET/PT, CBS

In the UK: First season currently being repeated on ITV3. No word on third season.

Characters re-cast: 0

Major characters gotten rid of: 0-2 (we’ll see in part two)

Major new characters: 0, but Dylan Bruno is now in the main cast list

Format change percentage: 0-25%, depending on part two

Pointless maths techniques performed: Many

There was something refreshing about Numb3rs when it first appeared. It was smart, for one thing: a maths professor helps his FBI agent brother to solve crimes, without either brother ending up looking stupid. But after the first few episodes, the shine started to go. It stopped being the CSI of mathematical criminal investigation shows (a small band, admittedly. Anyone name any others?) and become the CSI: New York instead. I’ve kept watching, more out of habit than because the show is drawing me in, although the occasional script does show a glimmer of the quality the show once had.

And now, it’s back. After its summer break, has it managed to recapture its former glory? I’d say, no, with an accuracy of 25-35%.

Problematically, this is a two-part story. It could be quite good, depending on its outcome. I’m suspecting it won’t be though.

The general plot has two lovers on a pan-American killing spree. Maths professor Charlie (David Krumholtz) is called in to see if he can help out and he immediately spots that the lovers are following a “pursuit curve”. Meanwhile, down in the sub-plots, he and Amita (Navi Rawat) finally decide it’s time to try dating – which has already gone wrong once and looks likely to go wrong again, suggesting a certain lack of imagination among the producers; Alan (Judd Hirsch) decides it might be time to move out of his son’s house; and Larry (Peter MacNichol) and Megan (Diane Farr) start dating, too. Don (Rob Morrow), David (Alimi Ballard) and Colby (Dylan Bruno) get bugger all to do except run round going “what’s math”?

As if all that weren’t enough, the always-interesting Lou Diamond Phillips makes a welcome return as Ian Edgerton, the sniper instructor from Quantico who’s been tailing the two lovers. But it’s a sign of how far the show has fallen that this recurring character is pretty much a cardboard cut-out now, with only Phillips making him worth watching.

While the episode never bores, it doesn’t exactly wow. The cliffhanger is interesting, I grant you, but it’s also a bit stupid and if any of the various plot points are resolved in a way that doesn’t immediately restore the status quo, I’ll be impressed. But the writer is Ken Sanzel, who’s been responsible for all the worst episodes of the show, so I’m not holding out much hope.

In fact, the only hope I do have is that episode three is going to be good, since it’s by Nicolas Falacci and Cheryl Heuton, the show’s creators, who are responsible for all the good episodes.

As with all the maths in Numb3rs of late, while the techniques shown do indeed do what is described, its use is utterly wrong and even within the plot, it’s of no real help – certainly, it offers nothing that any of the other characters couldn’t have worked out for themselves. Given that CSIs still do DNA and take fingerprints and House can talk about lupus every other episode, a bit of repetition now and again would probably be acceptable, rather than coming up with a new irrelevant technique every episode. If I were a cynical man, I might suspect they’re just doing it so they can keep garnering education awards…

If you’ve managed to keep up with Numb3rs, I’d say you’re in for more of the same this year, with probably no surprises – I’ll let you know once episode two has aired. New viewers, however, should steer well clear until the third episode at least, since the first two will certainly put you off.