OpinionTelevision & Film

Keep in TOUCH

Kiefer Sutherland makes his return to Fox Wednesday, with his new series Touch – what Fox calls a blend of science, spirituality and emotion.

Sutherland plays Martin Bohm, a widower whose wife was killed in the 9-11 attacks. He’s trying to make ends meet working odd jobs after a career as a journalist – and there’s not an explanation in this episode why he doesn’t do that anymore. His biggest challenge: caring for his 11-year-old son Jake, who’s autistic and hasn’t spoken a word his entire life.

When it becomes apparent that Bohm is no longer able to cope, according to the social worker Clea Hopkins, he starts to unravel the mystery of his son’s erratic behavior. And it turns out not to be so erratic.

The show’s entire foundation is the idea that everything and everyone on the planet is connected in some way, and that math has a way of putting disparate pieces together in a way that changes lives for the better. And Jake has the key to it all in his head.

It’s an intriguing premise, and the pilot does a good job of interweaving story threads that – at first – seem to have absolutely nothing to do with each other. And they don’t, except for the fact that a giant string of coincidences form the box in which they land. You have to watch to the end for the payoff, but it’s worth the time. The writers have delivered a solid first episode, in contrast to a lot of series that take almost an entire season to get on its feet.

Sutherland is surprisingly vulnerable in this. It’s much different from Jack Bauer. But at the same time, when he gets a full head of steam, you don’t want to be in his way.

Some fans will see the name Tim Kring and may be tempted to give the show a pass, remembering what happened to “Heroes” after the first season. But I recommend you give this one a try. It takes the idea of “predicting future events” and treats it in way that’s much more emotionally satisfying than “Person of Interest”, which does a bit of the same thing.

This show has quite a bit of potential – if they can manage to keep the coincidences from appearing too contrived. Having Jake as an autistic child that no one can figure out, might give them enough lee-way to invoke the “willing suspension of disbelief”, but as the season (and the series) goes on, Jake’s going to have to progress. And Martin Bohm is going to have to be able to put the pieces together in a way that makes sense to the audience.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw delivers a solid performance as the social worker assigned to the case, and I like the fact that I don’t feel any “will they or won’t they” vibe from her and Sutherland. Of course, it’s just the first episode, but they strike me more as hero/sidekick than potential romantic partners. At least, I hope so. To go the way of Lois & Clark, David & Maddie, The Doctor & Rose…. well… it just wouldn’t work. My two cents.

Certainly, the one to watch will be young David Mazouz, who plays Jake. His only lines are the opening and closing narration (which I’m not sure I like). His performance is purely physical, and he has to maintain his composure throughout. Very much like Summer Glau did as Cameron in her T:TSCC fight scenes. It will be interesting to see if Jake comes out of his shell at all as the show progresses, or if he’s going to strictly be a numbers-on-paper kid.

This is one to watch. At least, until they find their Sylar.

[Official Show Site at Fox]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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