Or Numb3rs (yes, that is how its spelt, I am not just googleproofing cos I am going to insult it). Where CSI has our talented professionals solving crime using forensic science, the heroes of Numb3rs use maths instead. Where CSI has Jerry Bruckheimer, Numb3rs has Tony & Ridley Scott exec producing. Now before I saw it I wondered exactly how they were going to trade in the gory yet fascinating SFX shots inside gunshot wounds with its mathematical equivalent. As much Athena went nuts on the fractal posters in the early nineties* maths just lacks the visual oomph of a shard of glass from an explosion lacerating an eyeball at top speed**.

Well Numb3rs does not really stray too far from its CSI template. Artfully shot serially killed bodies, quick forensic facts (the branding iron was heated up to 300 degrees). So far so Grissom. Even Rob Morrow, more crinkled than in his Northern Exposure turn, is the kind of lead actor that a CSI spin-off would promote to top spot. But then we hit the kooky home life (Judd Hirsch as crinkly Dad, and David Krumholz’s mathmo brother all living with top cop Morrow) and Krumholz gets to say phrases like “Everything is numbers”. And then we get our CSI sexy visuals: this time with graphs, swoopy stop motion graphics and the kind of equations which they love on TV because they are
a) Meaningless***
b) look like they have been written on a shitty old blackboard

So the family take the piss out of the brother, and Morrow gets to say lines like “Well he is a pain in the ass but he is a world class mathematician”. We cut from police procedural to maths procedural. Phrases like killer=innocent whiz across the screen. There is a sexy girl maths fans who touches the blackboard in a sensual way****. Mathmo gets told off for being a bit distracted by being told the history of Galois*****. And the maths that saves the day: PROBABILTY? Bah, since when did probability ever save anyone’s life (actually in this case it doesn’t).

So is Numb3rs (pronounced Numb Three Ers) any good. Well it is a well observed CSI knock-off, and it is not clear exactly why all these related men live together, but in a world with one too many CSI’s it is at least a bit different. And while the mathematical application in this episode makes a degree of sense, one assumes that the maths will get more and more tenuous as the series progresses (and so gruff, anti-maths Sarge can bark out things like “no way we get a court order off an equation”). We learn that humans do not conform to mathematical formulas, and then that they do, just slightly longer ones. CSI meets a Beautiful Mind. As good and bad as that suggests.

*In retrospect this is probably why Athena went bust.
** Or is that Man With A Movie Camera?
***Okay, there is a properly paid maths consultant on the show so its probably not completely meaningless.
****Turns out mathmo brother is supervising her. The ethics of this do just about spring up.
*****Inventor of Galois theory who died in a duel because he got messed up in politics. Some mathematicians think this is a shame. Anyone who actually studies Galois Theory or understands the finer things in life probably disagree.