'Touch' Review: Lots of Numbers and the Anti-Jack Bauer
When we last saw Keifer Sutherland (on TV, anyway), he was busting terrorists as Jack Bauer in "24." In the new Fox drama "Touch," however, Sutherland is about as far from Bauer as he can be while still being Keifer, and though there were terrorists in the pilot episode of "Touch," Sutherland's character was never within 5,000 miles of them.
And you know what? It kinda worked.
Without detailing too much of the plot (partly for spoilers and partly because it would take forever), here's the basic idea: Martin Bohm (Sutherland) lost his wife in 9/11 and is now raising his autistic son Jake. Jake is mute, averse to touch, and obsessed with numbers, in particular the Fibonacci sequence.
There is a pattern in Jake's obsession, though, which becomes clearer to Martin as the story goes on. Ultimately Jake's attempts at communication through these numbers reveals the interconnectedness of all things, and the possibility that Jake might be able to predict the future.
What we get, then, is a main focus on Martin and Jake, accompanied by the social worker evaluating their situation, and a web of other characters whose seemingly separate storylines eventually converge in a rather conveniently coincidental way.
In a lot of ways, creator Tim Kring seems to have learned from the fiasco that became of "Heroes." That show started off at a breakneck pace, serializing the storylines of far too many main characters and providing a cliffhanger every week. It took itself far too seriously, was way too dark, and the titular heroes never got to actually be heroes because they were too caught up in their own personal issues.
With "Touch," you can see that Kring still wants to keep that ensemble style, telling stories that span across the globe and include a number of different characters. But he seems (and we must speculate here, as only one episode has aired for critics and the show will not continue until March) that Kring has found a better model with his new show: it would appear that the extraneous characters will cycle in and out each episode, with perhaps the exception of a few, each of them having their problems solved by Jake's ability to connect them.
At least, that had better be the plan, because we never really take any time to start caring about those characters all that much. Martin, however, is helped considerably by the performance of Sutherland, who gives us a much more vulnerable character than we're used to from him. Martin is struggling. He's not in control like Jack Bauer was, and that gives us a new side of Suthlerland that's interesting to watch.
However, the show doesn't quite live up to the complexity or execution of "Magnola" or "Babel." There are times when the "coincidences" are a bit of a stretch, even set in this semi-mystical context. And when you have a terrorist talking to a wireless phone company support technician about ovens, you're bound to have a few audience members scratching their heads.
There's potential for an interesting procedural here that takes a more dramatic approach than "Person of Interest," so "Touch" has me for a few more episodes at least, just to see what happens. If you want to watch the pilot episode, you can do so at the Fox website.