Television

'Numb3rs'

CBS, WISH-8

Sundays at 10 p.m. We've come a long way from 1965-74, when Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and his simonized hair solved cases for The FBI. Or have we? Starting Sunday, we have FBI agent Rob Morrow and his overly long sideburns (please don't let this be a trend) working with his TV brother, a math whiz played by David Krumholtz, getting their man.

The show is Numb3rs (10 p.m., WISH 8), a procedural drama where mathematical probability and outcome meet shoe-leather detective work. As always, the crimes get solved in an hour - this is TV, after all - and the job is mostly done with grim determination.

So math is what makes this hour different.

But after viewing the one episode made available to reviewers, the jury remains out whether this device offers enough intrigue to keep viewers coming back.

The story in the opener centers around a serial rapist who brands his victims. "The L.A. Rapist," as the news reporters call him, has just committed his first murder. FBI agent Don Epps (Morrow), the lead investigator, can't discern a pattern in the crimes. But his world-class mathematician brother Charlie can.

Charlie figures that by working backward from where the crimes were committed, he can determine where the rapist lives. He scribbles an impossible-to-understand equation, then simplifies it by comparing the process to a lawn sprinkler: You can't predict where the water will fall, but you can pinpoint where the sprinkler is by analyzing where the drops of water land. From there, Numb3rs is a paint-by-numb3rs, capture-the-bad-guy police drama.

Numb3rs isn't completely easy to dismiss, however. The show boasts a fine cast, particularly Krumholtz. Riding a bicycle as if he were John Nash Jr. (the insane genius from A Beautiful Mind), Krumholtz plays the role with a brilliant sort of glint in his eye. And if you ever saw him in the irredeemably wretched sitcom The Trouble With Normal, you know this is no insignificant feat. Also strong in a limited role is Judd Hirsch, who plays dad to the brothers.

Their family dynamic is interesting, too. The brothers get along and respect each other and their father, which is a relatively unusual take on family life. Whether they can accentuate these positives and not become, um, formulaic should become apparent soon enough.

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