Follow the 'Numb3rs’

CBS taps couple’s first pilot as new crime show

Why This Matters



Ridley Scott says it doesn’t take him long to evaluate a script. “You immediately know,” says the director of Thelma & Louise. “Within a page of Numb3rs, I’m fully in, holding my breath and hoping to God they don’t drop the ball. I’m intrigued.”

Numb3rs, the new CBS crime-drama series, courtesy of writers Nick Falacci and Cheryl Heuton, was strong enough to persuade the British filmmaker to sign on to the project as executive producer. His younger brother, Tony, is also on board in that capacity.

Despite his film credentials, Ridley Scott, who directed The Gladiator and Blade Runner, is no stranger to television. He began his career directing commercials before turning his attention to the big screen. Numb3rs may be the start of a major transition for the acclaimed director/producer.

“I find the process of doing feature films exhausting. I’ve found myself looking more and more toward television,” says Scott. Though working on several films, including A Good Year, the movie based on the Peter Mayle novel, he has been extensively involved in Numb3rs. He reviews daily rushes and edits cuts via computer, as well as chatting daily with episode directors, the writers and other producers. “I watch everything,” Scott says. “I’m sort of maniacally detailed.”

If the series is successful, there will be plenty for Scott to monitor. CBS plans to show as many as 13 episodes this season and could order 20 more for next fall. That would allow him more room to work on character development, an area that fascinates him.

The big draw for Scott is time. Although directors are lucky to get away with making films longer than a few hours, hit dramas can run for 100 episodes or more, letting viewers connect with characters. “[Television] provides a great captive audience,” he says. “This sounds a bit like Big Brother, but we are in your house.”—J.F.




The Formula

Of all the scripts Nick Falacci and Cheryl Heuton have written and sold together in the past 14 years, not a single one has been produced. They finally got lucky with Numb3rs, a CBS procedural that premiered Jan. 23.

The drama revolves around an FBI agent and his math whiz brother. The idea resulted from years of conversations with CBS development execs. They encouraged the couple to write a pilot with strong characters related to math and science. Initial attempts flopped, but the pair persevered.

By the time they submitted Numb3rs, they had immersed themselves in the math and science communities, making fast friends with top scholars and reading scores of books on the subjects.

And they garner high praise from CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler.

Both say it has been a great working relationship. And Falacci and Heuton don’t even mind the earlier rejections. “The odds are against you. You can’t take it personally,” they say. (It’s hard to attribute the speaker. This team doesn’t just finish each other’s thoughts; they jump in and out of each other’s sentences. And they do it so smoothly, it feels like only one person is talking.)

The seasoned scribes know that even the most compelling scripts can’t get picked up unless they fit into a network’s strategy. Take Desperate Housewives. It sat in a drawer for years before ABC decided the time was ripe to try a soap-opera dramedy. Now the genre has turned into the flavor-of-the-month among programming chiefs.

Since their pilot was greenlighted, Falacci and Heuton have their hands full, pulling long hours as co-executive producers running their first show. “We came as people with no experience, thinking CBS would hire experienced people to do everything, and we would lose our voice,” the duo says. “That’s not the case.”

Not only are their personal reputations on the line, but they are responsible for the livelihood of the Numb3rs 100+ staff. They are also ambitious. Hoping the program clicks, they’ve already outlined two seasons’ worth of upcoming shows.