The earnest new drama Touch has its heart in the right place and its mind drifting off into unknown areas. Kiefer Sutherland stars as Martin Bohm, a New Yorker whose wife died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and who’s raising his 11-year-old son, Jake (David Mazouz). Jake, who narrated much of the pilot episode on Wednesday night, actually hasn’t spoken since he was born, and cannot stand to be touched. He spends a lot of time working out elaborate series of numbers.
Touch was created by Tim Kring, who also did Heroes, and there’s some of that show’s grand-design ambition here. Jake seems autistic, although Kring and Sutherland have given interviews saying the character is not, but the kid is clearly both immensely gifted and poignantly disabled in his dealings with his immediate surroundings. SPOILER ALERT FOR A FEW PLOT DETAILS FOLLOW.
Danny Glover appeared as an only apparently odd professor, the actually wise Arthur Teller, who was there to tell us that some people possess amazing gifts to figure out patterns, and indeed, we saw that Jake’s abilities ended up connecting people, via phone numbers and cell phones and what only seemed like coincidences, to solve a number of folks’ problems and avert at least one very dangerous situation. (When that bomb timer clicked down to “1,” I have to admit I wasn’t exactly sweating with fear — no way was that thing going to explode, right?)
I can see why Touch appealed to Sutherland — on the surface, at least, Martin Bohm isn’t anything like action-man Jack Bauer. But they do share a sense of pervasive anguish. Martin worries that he’s not doing all he can for his son, and once those magic numbers start doing their worldwide stuff, he scurries around with understandable intensity and, nearly frantic, tries to make sure something doesn’t go horribly wrong. Which is kinda like a 24 scenario: Touch circles back to what Sutherland did well on 24 — making heroic effort seem like carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.
What’s most admirable about Touch is the way the show is attempting to present its stories as idealistic narratives, seizing on the notion that the interconnectivity we experience through technology can result in good things (as opposed to the other way a fantasy or sci-fi-ish show often spins that: i.e., technology separating people, or turning evil on humans). I admire the fact that Kring is trying for storytelling that’s ebullient without going all Touched by an Angel gooey. (And though I could be wrong, I also detect a certain amount of 12-step philosophy woven into Touch, as when Martin says, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle,” and Glover’s Teller talks about achieving things “beyond our wildest dreams.”)
But I’m not sure I’m going to get hooked on a show that, every week, will present some variation on Jake making connections between disparate people, effecting good in the world, and then it’s off to the next Fibonacci sequence. (With names like “Teller” and “Tesla” [the name of Teller's street] floating around, you know Kring must have some larger plan lurking.) This was just the pilot, and pilots always have a lot of information-dispensing to do, and scant time for character shadings — the show will premiere weekly in March. So we’ll see how it develops.
Are you interested enough to stick with Touch?