Friday, September 22, 2006

Numb3rs, please

Procedurals, thy name is CBS.

NCIS. Without a Trace. Criminal Minds. CSI times three.

There's nothing wrong with procedurals. Considering in this day and age that most networks pull the plugs on shows too quickly, it's a lot easier to watch a procedural, which focuses on the case of the week, rather than a story involving a season-long, multi-episode arc, a trend in which TV seems to be turning thanks to the success of shows like "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives."

Fans of shows like "Reunion" had a mystery that was supposed to be played out over a season, only to see the show cancelled midway through.

One of my favorite procedurals is "Numb3rs" (CBS, 10 p.m.), which kicks off its third season tonight. Rob Morrow stars as Don Epps, an FBI agent who often consults his genius brother, Charlie (David Krumholtz), a math professor at a Cal Tech-like university. We often see Don and his FBI team going through conventional methods to solve a case while Charlie and his math colleagues devise various formulas to help solve it.

I always worry for writers on TV shows about ideas eventually running thin. One does wonder how much math is out there that can be applied to FBI cases (or why the real FBI doesn't have its own math genius on payroll) but so far, the show has held up pretty well.

WEEKEND"S BEST BETS: "Grey's Anatomy" fans who somehow managed to miss last night's season premiere can catch it again tonight (ABC, 8 p.m.) followed by the new Anne Heche series, "Men in Trees," which I have not seen. Apparently, it's a "Northern Exposure"-style show.

CBS has the season premieres of "Ghost Whisperer" and "Close to Home" before "Numb3rs" comes on. Sci-Fi channel wraps up its two "Stargate" series tonight as well. The pick of the night, however, is "MI-5" (A&E, 11 p.m.) which concludes its two-part premiere.

Georgia fans can catch the Dogs play Colorado Saturday at 12:30 p.m. on WGXA.

"Desperate Housewives" (ABC, Sunday, 9 p.m.) kicks off season No. 3 on Sunday, picking up six months after the events of last year's finale, in which Mike (James Denton) was run over by Orson (Kyle Maclachlan), who has proposed to Bree (Marcia Cross). Rumor has it that series creator Marc Cherry has more of a hand in the writing this season, so hopefully the show won't suffer the creative funk it went through last year.

"Brothers & Sisters" follows "DH" at 10 p.m. This ensemble drama, starring Calista Flockhart, Rachel Griffiths and Ron Rifkin among others, has been one of the most written about during the offseason, because of various troubles the show has gone through. The pilot was completely re-shot, with Sally Field joining the cast as the show's matriarch. Marti Noxon ("Buffy"), a very talented writer and producer, was replaced and ABC has been reticent to show the revamped show to critics.

CBS airs the season debuts of "Cold Case" (9 p.m.) and "Without a Trace" (10 p.m.), following "The Amazing Race." (I'm pulling for the triathletes or the beauty queens, hate the Alabama moms and the male models).


Zodin2008 said...

I am an outspoken critic of procedurals at this point, particularly because the WORST offender, CBS has over saturated the marketplace with them and relies on almost nothing else.

Plus, when CBS has actually given the audience a wonderful and non procedural 1 hour show such as last Spring's, "Love Monkey", the audience rejected it and instead flocked to the terribly written & acted military Drama, "The Unit".

(I gave "The Unit" a chance as it starred Dennis Haysbert whom I loved as President Palmer on "24" and was created by "The Shield" genius, Shawn Ryan...I was particularly stunned and disappointed at how terrible it was, including Haysbert).

That being said, you also don't want to see the marketplace over saturated by shows with seaosn long arcs because if you make the commitment as a viewer (like I did last fall with "Reunion" and I am still seething over Fox's treatment of the show) then you set yourself up, potentially, to be very disappointed if those shows are taken off.

I don't think anyone will lose sleep though if Fox's vanishes "Vanished", which is really bad and I finally gave up this week on caring about this show.

Phillip Ramati said...

I think there is room for both procedurals and shows that contain long arcs. They needn't be mutually exclusive.

The way networks pull the plug so quickly on shows favor watching the procedurals, since there is less emotional investment by the viewer. Obviously, the shows with the arcs have the better payoff.

Zodin2008 said...

I agree...but it's too hard to follow too many shows with long arcs. Plus, it's really hard to do it perfectly the way "Buffy" and "Angel" have done or the first season of "veronica Mars" for example.

Phillip Ramati said...

That's the other problems with arcs. Between existing shows like "Lost" that have big viewer ratings, it may make it tougher for people to commit to a new show that has a big arc, such as "Heroes." Viewers may only want so many things on their plate at once.