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Something Doesn’t Add Up The Maddening Math of Crime Shows

Crunching the numbers on a crime show that’s supposed to be about math


The former CBS show Numb3rs, otherwise known as CSI-Math or “the show with the number three in its title,” is one of those series that seems like it was never actually on, that it came into this world already in syndication. You can usually find a rerun on at around 3 in the morning. I turn to it at the end of the night, when all is dark and the demands of the day have been silenced. I find the show both unwatchable and mesmerizing. No matter how much I tell myself not to look at it, there will be those moments of intractable curiosity when I’ll glance.

Numb3rs is about a crack FBI agent named Don Eppes and his young, math superstar/professor brother, Charlie. It’s a crime drama, but it’s not one of those blunt-hammer crime dramas where they rely on played-out police techniques like interrogation, blood samples, and wiretapping. No, these guys use math. Why math? Because math explains everything, even the allure of a show about math.

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