While in my fevered state*, I’ve been re-watching a procedural I used to watch called Numb3rs. The basic premise is about an FBI agent (Don Eppes, played by Rob Morrow) who reluctantly at first and then eagerly uses the math abilities of his genius brother (Charlie Eppes, played by David Krumholz), while both being clucked over by their caring, but somewhat neurotic father (Alan Eppes, played by the eminent Judd Hirsch). Charlie lives with his father, and Don is always hanging around the house. All the episodes end with a family or non-work-related scene, and I remember the creators saying the choice was deliberate as a way to balance the horrors of the FBI scenes. I really liked the math aspect of the show, and I was able to ignore the ludicrous premise. Look, I don’t care that Charlie already consulted with the NSA and had the highest level of security clearance. The premise is still ridiculous. But, as an aficionado of procedurals, I know that leaps of faith have to be taken and to accept a show on its own premises.
I loved the nerdier take on a procedural, and the relationship between the brothers and the father felt real-ish to me. Larry (played by Peter Nichols) is a delightful eccentric cosmic physicist, and sometimes flirts with being a stereotypical absentminded professor. Nichols performance elevates the role past that, however, and fleshes it out into an interesting person, but I could see it falling flat in the hands of a lessor actor. You may notice that I haven’t mentioned any female characters yet, and there’s a reason for that. The female characters aren’t nearly as fleshed out and often seem to be appendages to the male characters, unfortunately. Plus, one of my biggest gripes is that all the girlfriends of the main characters (save Alan, but more on that in a bit) are hotties, whereas both Charlie and Larry are…not. I don’t think Don is hot, but he’s good-looking and charming, and he has a nice bod.
It’s not as simple as the female characters are bad, however. They’re not. They’re good on paper, and I like many of them in and of themselves, but in the whole gestalt, they paint a broader picture of subtle sexism, both intentional (meaning, trying to highlight sexism) and not (reinforcing societal stereotypes of heteronormative gender roles). First, is Navi Rawat as Amita Ramanujan. In the first season, Charlie is her adviser, but it’s clear that there’s chemistry between them. Mostly because they stare longingly at each other. Navi Rawat is insanely hot, by the way. Is it inappropriate that an adviser and advisee have a romantic relationship? Of course it is. But, they hold off until afterwards, so technically, it’s fine. Amita has her own life, but most of it is takes a backseat to her helping Charlie do his brilliant work. She’s a low-key manic pixie girlfriend, and she’s portrayed as every nerd’s wet dream. Incredibly hot and insanely smart, plus she has no problems with Charlie being consumed by his math and being a flake. She’s the ultimate Cool Girlfriend, and the few times she raises concerns, she’s easily fobbed off. Any outburst by Charlie is swept under the rug with the excuse that Charlie is a genius, so we can’t expect him to react like a normal human being.