New York Times

February 27, 2005



Normal User 2 2005-01-17T18:10:00Z 2005-02-27T19:08:00Z 2005-02-27T19:08:00Z 4 972 5545 46 11 6809 9.3220


WHAT do a blind man, a math professor and a psychic have in common? 

They are all consultants to new prime-time series, responsible for

injecting seemingly outlandish plots with the kind of details no

Hollywood writer could dream of.


A string of bank robberies in "Numbers" (Fridays at 10 p.m. on CBS)

leads to an arcane reference to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

Those visions of dead crime victims that crop up in "Medium" (Mondays

at 10 on NBC) are, believe it or not, based on experiences described

by the show's real-life psychic. And in "Blind Justice," a new ABC

series that has its premiere at

10 p.m. on March 8, attentive viewers will learn about "touch and go"



Lynn Manning, a playwright, actor, Paralympic silver medalist and

former blind judo champion of the world, serves as the technical

adviser for "Blind Justice." Mr. Manning, who appeared off Broadway

last January in "Weights," an autobiographical one-man show, lost his

sight when he was 23.  "Someone picked a fight with me in a bar in

Hollywood," Mr. Manning recalled. "I reluctantly overpowered the guy

and threw him out. He came back a half-hour later with a gun and shot

me through the eyes. The bullet entered my left eye, went through my

sinuses and severed the optic nerve behind my right eye, but didn't

cause any brain damage. So that's where my story as a blind man



A violent attack also begins the story arc for Detective Jim Dunbar

(Ron Eldard), who, in "Blind Justice," returns to the job with his

Seeing Eye dog after being blinded in a shootout.

"I don't know anything about being blind," said Steven Bochco,

co-executive producer of the series, "so the kind of specific

knowledge that Lynn Manning can bring anecdotally, you just couldn't

figure out yourself."


Mr. Manning reviews e-mailed scripts using a software program that

translates text into synthesized speech. "I send the producers my

notes about what's not realistic or a little over the top," he said.

"I try to give them that sense of authenticity that a sighted

person might not know about."


Offering observations culled from his own experience, Mr. Manning

said, he has helped the writers understand how, exactly, a blind man

uses a restroom and what it's like to translate sound into mental

images. "There are little touches I help out with, like when the

detective's wife takes his face to give him a kiss, as opposed to

just lips flying in from space. For a blind person, that can be very

disconcerting: you don't just throw your lips out there at somebody

and expect to hit the mark."


Unless, of course you are psychic, like Allison DuBois, in which case

the space-time continuum is a little warped anyway. Ms. DuBois is the

consultant for "Medium," a series that mirrors her life as an

ESP-endowed law student, the mother of three daughters whom she

believes are similarly gifted and the wife of a rocket scientist. She

also serves as role model for Patricia Arquette, who plays the

fictional Allison.


"Patricia hung out at my house and took notes the whole time to learn

about the process," Ms. DuBois said. When Ms. Arquette asked for a

reading, the actress got more than she bargained for: her father, who

died four years ago, appeared to Ms. DuBois in a vision. "I brought

her dad through - he had a clown nose on," Ms. DuBois said

matter-of-factly. "I told Patricia, he keeps talking about this clown

nose. She laughed and said her dad used to put a clown nose on to

cheer her up. At his funeral, she ordered 150 clown noses, and

everyone wore them. That was an obscure piece of information that

meant nothing to me but meant everything to her."


Glenn Gordon Caron, co-executive producer of the series, admits he

was skeptical when Garry Hart, president of Paramount Network

Television until last September, suggested Ms. DuBois as inspiration

for a show about a woman who solves crimes by communicating with the

dead. "Garry called me up and said, 'Do you believe any of this

stuff?' I told him: 'I'm probably more a cynic than anything else.

But I know a good story when I hear one.'"


After meeting Ms. DuBois over lunch, Mr. Caron was intrigued. Using

her autobiographical manuscript, "Don't Kiss Them Goodbye" (to be

published next month by Simon & Schuster), he created the slightly

fictionalized "Medium" premise. And Mr. Caron continues to pepper his

prescient muse with follow-up questions.


"Glenn will call me, and I'll be grocery shopping, and he'll say,

'What does it look like when you look through the eyes of a killer?'"

Ms. DuBois said, "So I have to pull my cart over and tell him what

that looks like."


The reality-check for Charlie Eppes, the "Numbers" protagonist played

by David Krumholtz, comes mainly from Gary Lorden, chairman of the

math department at the California Institute of Technology, and his

colleagues. Cheryl Heuton and Nick Falacci, the husband-and-wife team

who are co-creators and co-executive producers of the series, live

just down the street from Caltech's Pasadena campus. "When we started

doing our research, we decided, why not use reality instead of just

making it up?" Ms. Heuton said. "And since we were going to use

reality, we wanted to get it right by talking to mathematicians about

the initial ideas and then adjusting them to make it more real."

Mr. Krumholtz's character is a math genius who helps solve crimes

with his F.B.I.-agent brother (Rob Morrow). As the series's official

math consultant, Dr.  Lorden takes pride in the fact that every

equation scribbled on screen is textbook perfect. "For one episode,"

he said, "my colleague Dinakar Ramakrishnan, who's a leading expert

in number theory, drew pages and pages of equations that he faxed to

the writers, which they then put up on the board. If by chance

Caltech mathematicians are watching the show and look at the board,

they'll say, 'Oh yeah, that looks real.'"


Mathematicians from across the country also contribute ideas. Ed

Witten, a scholar at Princeton University's Institute for Advanced

Study, pitched a story idea after he received a "Numbers" script from

his brother Matt, a TV writer.


"Ed sent our script back along with an episode idea, which we used,

telling us we should do something about a rogue mathematician who

tries to crack Internet security by solving the Riemann hypothesis,"

Ms. Heuton recalled.


Dr. Lorden scrutinizes the dialogue, he said, to make sure the

characters in "Numbers" talk like real mathematicians. "You don't

call it 'Riemann's hypothesis' - it's 'the Riemann hypothesis.' One

of the things you do as a technical adviser is to give it the ring of

the true sound."