With "CSI," "CSI: Miami," "CSI: New York," "Law & Order," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," "Without a Trace," "Navy NCIS" and "Medical Investigation" currently parked on prime-time TV, it tickles me to think that someone at CBS woke up in the middle of the night and cried out, "I know what this network needs! Another show about people solving grisly crimes in 60 minutes or less!" Television these days is lousy with copycats, and "Numbers," a new CBS drama (Fridays at 10 p.m. ET) about an FBI agent whose math-genius brother helps him solve crimes, is a rip-off of a spinoff of a clone. Except that it's a good one. Starring Rob Morrow (the Fed), David Krumholtz (the geek) and Judd Hirsch (their dad), "Numbers" is a gripping hour of TV, with unexpected shades of character, crisp acting and enough gee-wizardry to excite anyone with even a quark of scientific curiosity.

In the pilot episode, written by creators Cheryl Heuton and Nick Falacci, Agent Don Eppes (Morrow) is investigating a serial rapist when his brother, Charlie (Krumholtz), spies the case file on the family's kitchen table. Scanning a map of past attacks, Charlie tells Don he could write an equation that would spit out a small area where the criminal likely resides--just as, he explains, pointing to a sprinkler in the yard, he could derive the sprinkler's location based on where the drops of water land. "Everything," Charlie says, "is math." Cool.

Executive-produced by action-movie veterans Ridley and Tony Scott (and fact-checked by big brains at Caltech), "Numbers" has a clean, geometric look that nicely underlines its theme: life is never as random as it seems. Krumholtz, with his giant eyebrows and freethinker hair, is the key to the show. He's persuasively brainy, even a bit sexy. His appeal, though, leads to one of the show's few embarrassing moments. After Charlie leaves some work up on a chalkboard, his gorgeous, slightly smitten graduate assistant, Amita (Navi Rawat), runs her fingers sensuously over his scribblings, as if she's aroused by his hot, studly... math. "Numbers" does a nice job making math seem cool--but it's not that cool.