Visiting Square One: Numb3rs

Sometimes, it is worthwhile to take those prognosticators back to the beginning and hold their feet to the fire. For example, the snarky review of Numb3rs, the crime drama that only recently went off the regular schedule, as reviewed by the LA Times:

January 21, 2005|Robert Lloyd | Times Staff Writer
It is astonishing to me that a television show that stars Rob Morrow, Sabrina Lloyd, David Krumholtz and Judd Hirsch, four of the most interesting and attractive and amusing actors television has ever beamed into a living room, would turn out to be a show that — on the basis of its pilot, at least — I would not ever care to watch again. (And there’s Peter MacNicol lurking around the corners, as well.) But “Numb3rs,” which premieres Sunday night on CBS before settling into its regular Friday slot, is that show. Most surprising, perhaps, given the natural strengths of the cast (whose combined resume includes “Northern Exposure,” “Sports Night,” “Slums of Beverly Hills” and “Taxi”) is that it is not a comedy, or even funny in passing.
“Numb3rs” (not pronounced “Numbthreers,” though well might you think so) claims one more hour of CBS prime time for forensic drama, joining “Cold Case,” “NCIS,” “Without a Trace,” and “CSI” one, two and three in positing a chilly, sexy world of crime and death. The twist here is that FBI agent Morrow has for a kid brother math genius Krumholtz, who uses his beautiful mind to help Morrow crack the tough nuts. (Hirsch is their father — the three are well-mated — and Lloyd is Morrow’s sidekick.) According to network copywriters, the show has been “inspired by actual cases,” though not (like NBC’s “The Medium”) by an actual person, and adds terms like “variables,” “anomaly” and “predictive analysis” to the usual talk of lividity and ligature marks.
It’s a decent enough premise. Math is indeed a helpful science, which police need just in order to be able to say things like, “This makes victim number four” (addition) or “Crime is down .03245%” (division, decimals) or “You have no chance of getting away, so come out with your hands up” (probability). I’m all for egghead heroes, and Krumholtz is offered as grade A jumbo. “You have abilities,” his physicist friend MacNicol tells him. “You could be helping define the nature of reality.” Though absent-minded in the classic professorial manner, Krumholtz is no math nerd — he’s a math babe, with a hot almost-girlfriend who runs her hand lovingly over his blackboard-filling complicated equations. (He’s her thesis advisor, so it’s all platonic so far.)
Pulling levers behind the curtain here are executive producers Ridley and Tony Scott, whose names, as directors, are individually attached to many popular, sometimes good movies, including “Blade Runner” and “Gladiator” (Ridley) as well as “Top Gun” and “Crimson Tide” (Tony). Life’s small moments are largely missing from their films, as is humor of any but a brutal sort. Their previous forays into television include the rapidly canceled “AFP: American Fighter Pilot,” a reality show that lasted two episodes in 2002, and the soft-core horror anthology “The Hunger,” a 1997 cable series that took its name and tone from Tony’s gauzy vampire film and suffered from a similar surfeit of atmosphere.
The atmosphere is thick here too, and not with smog. Set in Los Angeles, “Numb3rs” might if nothing else obviate the need for “CSI: L.A.,” which would be worth at least a quick thank-you note. It’s a slick production in which the city looks very good, almost juicy, in a fashion-shoot kind of way. But in spite of map-accurate street names and neighborhoods, it’s an unreal city, made for cardboard heroes and nasty stick-figure villains. On the loose in the first episode is the cleverly named “L.A. Rapist,” who likes to brand his victims and has started to turn his hand to murder. All are stumped until the random patterns of falling drops of water from a backyard sprinkler start the wheels turning in Krumholtz’s superior noggin.
The trick will be to keep the series from turning into one illustrated word problem after another. But the bigger problem is that the production is bound by the decadent conventions of this dismayingly successful form, in which character is merely suggested, special effects get more love than conversation, flashes of violence substitute for drama and nothing of real interest is proposed. I was not surprised at all to see the series get underway with the naked corpse of a good-looking young woman, left among the weeds — “CSI: New York” set off in just the same way.
On the other hand, this is a great cast — beyond the promise of a steady paycheck, and the chance to work with one another, I can’t imagine what brought them here, but here they are — and given time and flexibility, television shows often mold themselves to the actors’ strengths. I wouldn’t want to guess the odds.

Mr. Lloyd, having hedged enough to cover the bases, is still writing for the Times. Numb3rs did find cancellation, but it was after six seasons – the first four of which it enjoyed the best ratings for Friday evening primetime viewing. Sometimes snarky reviews are enough to kill a series, but in this case, the math added up.

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Peyton’s place: Leaving Indy, remaining in hearts.

I guess it means I’m a fan. There was a note about a televised press conference Wednesday morning. I got up off the couch for the remote and turned on the TV.

Jim Irsay and Peyton Manning were behind the podium, ending a 14-year partnership that included a Superbowl championship, the NFL’s top prize. According to Manning, there was no single event that was the turning point in the ending of their relationship and his employment with the only professional team he has ever suited up for.

A big bonus clause played a part – a 28-million dollar bonus that was due any day now – but there were other factors. Four neck surgeries, as an example. Age, as another. Peyton has his best years behind him, even if he has a few more good ones left in him.

But there is no guarantee of that.

There are several ironies: Before Peyton, the Indianapolis Colts were a small market team that some might have termed a laughing stock. Irsay took his draft and collected a 22-year old quarterback who paid off big-time. In fact, there likely would never have been a Superbowl game played in the state of Indiana if not for the legacy of that Tennessee graduate, the son of Saints quarterback Archie Manning. Brother of Eli, of NY Giants fame – also a Superbowl-winning MVP.

Peyton’s tenure and on-the-field success led to the paychecks and bonus clauses that now are keeping the Colts at the far-reaches of their salary cap.

If he really wanted to stay, though, couldn’t he just defer the bonus payment? As it turns out, he won’t collect it, anyway. Both men said money was not the primary issue.

The Colts are putting together the post-Peyton organization, and a big part of that is parting with Peyton. In another irony, without his play last season, Indy won only two games and assured themselves of the first draft pick, which will likely go to Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III – both topflight quarterbacks. They’ll command some money.

There isn’t room for a high-priced aging veteran with health problems – and an incoming stellar prospect who can sign a check as well as pass a football.

It’s too bad, really. Watching the press conference and its pent-up emotion, it was easy to see the two long-time associates were not comfortable with the divorce. Peyton apparently has it in his mind to play more years.

Even without the bonus, he likely doesn’t need more money.

He could live the rest of his life as a favorite son in Indianapolis and never have to write a check.

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EMSA: Tulsa’s Mercenary Motorists

Shame. A word we have replaced with expletives and derivatives in today’s vernacular, but all the same, shame on you EMSA.

You are the service with whom the public trust is given at that time of mortal-life crisis, expecting that help will be rendered in a timely fashion to save the lives of the afflicted. Then – later, you send a bill that double-charges. Or, you sic your lawyer-firm on those who have rightly paid for the service in advance.

Shame.

In the old days, that word alone was the equivalent of a face-slap, a gauntlet thrown down in challenge. Today, it is only said in hopes that some moral equivalent of a pistol-duel might be administered. Shame on you, EMSA. Preying on the weak, disabled, dying, infirm, and traumatized.

The very people those who signed up with your service – for assurance of coverage – whom you should consider as allies, have turned on you with the populace to seek damages in court, against what they say are false claims due.

Relying on a clientele without sufficient legal resources, EMSA has apparently preyed upon those very people who have paid for assistance, those who would pay regularly as a part of their city utility bill to cover the possibility of an ambulance transport. How many others are paying regularly, only to anticipate the prospect of a follow-up lawsuit from the ambulance provider, no matter the coverage.

It is easy for a government-identified entity to routinely retain an attorney to file suit against anyone with a name and an address, regardless of culpability, and that is apparently what EMSA has done – finding those who are likely victims of government-style lawsuits. It is particularly abusive when those suits are directed against those who might assume – because of their known payments – the suit is in error.

Surprise! That flashlight of common knowledge in the darkness of secretive activities: here is a lawsuit that threatens to expose a bureaucratic gangster hiding within the cloaks of city government. It is apparently a case of a single abused customer finding out that he or she is not alone. Many have been victims. Many others – logically – don’t even know. Will never know.

Thus, the lawsuit.

When charges are filed against the city and its various branches – such as EMSA, the ambulance service – the public ends up paying the judgments. In the case against EMSA, the city’s residents should pay those affected, with an acknowledgement of their personal heartache. Have you been sued by the city lately? Were you guilty or innocent? Assuming you believed yourself innocent, did you discover that a group of similarly accused individuals had filed suit against EMSA? Again, shame on EMSA, vultures in brightly-lit trucks.

Those who paid their utility bills – including an EMSA fee – should have had the peace of mind that accompanied their payments, anticipating that their cash amount would cover any eventual usage of services.

The city certainly had no intention of returning any payment for unused services.

For shame.

Shame, as an 18th Century malicious response directed at a government-associated entity that proposes an existence dedicated to saving people’s lives, while secretly filing suit in court to destroy those same people’s lives.

Shame, shame.

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When heroes fall: Lenny Dykstra and muddled vision.

As an American League follower, I can’t recite any stats about Lenny Dykstra, but baseball fans of his era will certainly remember the player. He was active in the late 80s and early 90s with the NY Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies and was a member of the Series Champion Mets in 1986.

He’s on his way back to the slammer.

After a solid career in Major League Baseball, Len fell off the straight and narrow. He isn’t the first to do so, and won’t be the last, certainly. When I noticed the headline about his legal problems, I thought “Ahh, Lenny…What in the world happened?”

There was that automatic sympathy extended, because he was a pro ballplayer.

Then, I read the article.

It turns out. he is going back into custody, because he was only out long enough to get formally sentenced for his “no-contest” plea to the charges against him. He’s been in jail for a year already, which will reduce the three-year sentence he is going to have to serve.

Like other convicted criminals, he isn’t happy with the idea. Right away, he wanted to change his plea and fight the charges, in an attempt to keep himself out of jail. Sending him to jail is “disgusting,” says his attorney, who says the judge is trying to make an example of a celebrity.

Maybe the judge is making an example of a celebrity criminal. Like others convicted of crimes, Lenny believes he has been wronged – if the judge would just let him change his plea, he would be completely exonerated of all charges.

Here is the list of problems Mr Dykstra got himself into, part of which includes charges to which he pleaded No Contest after prosecutors dropped more than twenty items:

Grand theft auto. Providing false financial statements. (These were in tandem as part of a scheme orchestrated to have several high-end cars leased to him, even though he is broke.)

Bankrupcy fraud: charges that came about (and to which he will stand stand trial for) after he declared personal bankruptcy over $31-million in debts against $50-thousand in assets. $31,000,000 against $50,000. Them’s some debts. Furthermore, prosecutors claim that Lenny – after his bankruptcy filing – hid, sold, and destroyed almost half-a-million dollars worth of the stuff from his $18.5-million dollar mansion. He wasn’t supposed to do that. Maybe the people he owed money to might have been able to use those things against his debts.

When the police arrested the celebrity former ballplayer, they found in his home the drugs Ectacy, cocaine, and synthetic human growth hormone. Those were among the charges that prosecutors dropped in exchanged for the “No Contest” plea on the grand theft and financial charges.

He has also pleaded Not Guilty to charges filed after he was arrested in connection with complaints that he had exposed himself to women he met through Craigslist ads. He’ll still face trial on those counts.

Lenny points out that he chose to enter a drug treatment program on his own, which – it goes without saying – is a fair indication that Mr Dykstra has had troubles with substance abuse, too.

Still, he says, the charges are trumped up and he doesn’t deserve jail as punishment.

Oh, contraire, says the car dealer who was taken in by the scam, who says it is about time the former MLB star has had to be held accountable for his criminal activities.

After reading the article in its entirety, I’m inclined to agree with the car dealer. It sounds a lot like Lenny Dykstra has believed himself to be in that elite group of people who are above the law that regulates the rest of the common folks, like us. Even in his squirming, he doesn’t quite get it, believing most of the accusations were groundless.

“I do have remorse for some of the things I’ve done,” he said. “But because I wasn’t a perfect person am I a criminal? Everyone wants to make me out to be a monster.”

No, Len.

You aren’t classified as a criminal for failure to be a perfect person. You are a criminal because you broke the law. Several laws, in fact. If that wasn’t enough, you agreed not to contest those charges in exchange for a plea that would get your former-ballplaying-self out of jail sooner.

No one is making you out to be a monster.

Just a common con-man and suspected pervert.

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