Numb3rs: The Fourth Season
Directed by Tony Scott et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 767 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 stereo English
MSRP: $ 61.99
Release Date: September 30, 2008
Review Date: September 29, 2008
CBS seems to be the only network that is aggressively programming top notch shows for Friday night rather than letting the night be merely a receptacle for repeats, short term experiments, and reality programming. Numb3rs has been its top-rated Friday show for almost its entire four season run. It’s accomplished this despite many mediocre scripts, a bloated cast with wildly divergent skill levels, and sometimes incompatible lead-ins. Numb3rs may not be a great show, but it is one of the network’s most consistent time period winners.
It’s another in the long line of CBS procedurals though this one doesn’t concentrate on forensics or suspect profiling to solve its cases. Instead, special FBI agent Don Eppes (Rob Morrow) uses his secret weapon when his team is in need of an extra bit of investigative prowess, his younger genius brother Dr. Charlie Eppes (David Krumholtz) who uses advanced mathematical theories to help the FBI locate their guilty parties. The show manages rather cleverly to have Charlie explain in layman’s terms with clever graphics every week his advanced theories of being about to identify and track suspects. Even broken down into basics, the math is often difficult to follow, but one takes the leap of faith with the show’s premise, and it usually leads to the crew’s successfully nabbing whomever they’re after.
I used the term “bloated” earlier, and it was not chosen without reason. Don’s team consists of David Sinclair (Alimi Ballard), Colby Granger (Dylan Bruno), Megan Reeves (Diane Farr), and Liz Warner (Aya Sumika) whom Don began dating during season three. Charlie’s “dream team” consists of his friend physicist Larry Fleinhart (Peter MacNicol), Charlie’s girl friend and former grad student Amita Ramanujan (Navi Rawat), and Don and Charlie’s well meaning but interfering dad Alan (Judd Hirsch). With such a crowded cast of characters, it’s a credit to the writers that they find something for most of these actors to do each week, though giving the Eppes brothers these love interests (after being hectored for the entire first season by their meddlesome father to go looking for love) often brings stories to a standstill while the awkwardly inserted romantic business must be played out. It also doesn’t help that there isn’t even the tiniest spark of romantic chemistry to be found between any of the three couplings: Don-Liz, Charlie-Amita, or Larry-Megan. The writers even introduced a love interest (Kathy Najimy) for Alan in season three, but thankfully she’s nowhere to be seen in season four. They did, however, bring in another love interest for Don near the end of the season after the inevitable break with Liz.
After watching Colby be arrested at the end of season three for being an inter-agency spy for the Chinese government, the storyline is resolved in the fourth season premiere, though lingering bad blood between Colby and partner David Sinclair continued for several episodes. The remainder of the season’s episodes are all mysteries begun and concluded within the confines of the episode. Thus while there are personal story arcs for various characters which go along during the season, the crime stories themselves could be watched in practically any order.
Though the top billed gentlemen are all fine actors (Morrow, Krumholtz, Hirsch, MacNicol), the remainder of the company simply does not rise to their skill level. Especially weak are nasally Diane Farr (who leaves the series after this season) and the beautiful but painfully monotone Navi Rawat. Some superb actors turn up as guest stars this season, however, including Val Kilmer, Enrico Colantoni, Christopher Lloyd, Matthew Morrison, Wil Wheaton, Sean Patrick Flannery, William Atherton, Michael O’Keefe, Jill Eikenberry, J. P. Pitoc, and Zeljko Ivanek.
Here is a rundown of the eighteen episodes contained in this season’s box set:
1 - Trust Metric
2 - Hollywood Homicide
3 - Velocity
4 - Thirteen
5 - Robin Hood
6 - In Security
7 - Primacy
8 - Tabu
9 - Graphic
10 - Chinese Box (my favorite episode of the season)
11 - Breaking Point
12 - Power
13 - Black Swan
14 - Checkmate
15 - End Game
16 - Atomic No. 33
17 - Pay to Play
18 - When Worlds Collide
The program is broadcast on CBS in 1080i, and these down converted 480p transfers are framed at 1.78:1. The images are clean and generally look good and feature very good black levels with usually good shadow detail. Some shots are often softer than they should be, and there is occasional video noise in the picture. Each episode has been divided into either 6 or 7 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix which I chose to listen to for the purposes of this review shows occasional surround expertise, but for an action show, the rear channels are not exploited for their maximum potential. There are no problems with the audio apart from its being a lackluster mix.
Paramount has shot its special feature wad with one large documentary feature: “Crunching Numb3rs: ‘Trust Metric’.” This 58-minute feature goes into depth with a complete making-of feature on the season’s premiere episode, done with feature director Tony Scott (who also serves as executive producer on the show with brother Ridley), given a lavish budget for a single episode of a television series, and blessed with an extra day of shooting time. The documentary begins with pre-production and goes all the way through filming the three elaborate action sequences (the series usually has one big action scene per episode) and through post production film, sound, and music editing. The viewer can watch the documentary as one long feature or can watch the five individual segments that make it up separately.
Previews offered include the CSI franchise, Criminal Minds, Ghost Whisperer, and Dexter.
Numb3rs is a slightly better than average crime procedural which features a mix of acting styles that don’t always jive with each other and stories which vary from fascinating to rather predictable. The strike-infected season of the show has produced a box without much in the way of bonus features, but fans of the show will enjoy seeing what is offered.