I had high hopes for Kiefer Sutherland's new series, “Touch.” I really wanted to like it. It had an interesting premise, an excellent leading man (he's “24's” Jack Bauer, after all!) and a child actor who doesn't actually speak. This part I considered a huge bonus, because most male kids on screen are called Tommy or Jimmy, need a haircut and are not as cute or clever as they think they are. So I settled in and watched the pilot. Then I watched a few more episodes. Then I just wished Jack Bauer was back.
“Touch” is about a father and son and strangers and numbers — lots and lots of numbers. Martin Bohm played by Sutherland is a widower and father of Jake (David Mazouz). Martin struggles to communicate and care for Jake who is a mute 11-year-old. Jake does not like to be touched and shows almost no emotion but he does like numbers. He writes endless sequences of them. When he looks at numbers, we're told by one character, Jake sees the whole universe. Or, in less New Age speak, Jake sees patterns in numbers that show him how people all over the world are connected in emotional or spiritual ways when their lives intersect.
The action focuses on Martin who figures out that Jake's numbers are a kind of map that leads him to strangers who then lead to other strangers who are somehow all connected to one another. They all have a physical, spiritual or emotional need. So Martin spends each episode introducing himself to people he doesn't know with variations on the line: “I know we've never met but somehow I'm supposed to help you.” One thing leads to another and Martin, in a “Touched by an Angel” sort of way, helpfully intervenes in a stranger's life. All the other characters that have been introduced since the start of the episode turn out to have a purpose in each others' lives as well, including the one who Martin was meant to help. Basically, the message is that we're all connected. Nothing is random. Everything has a pattern and everyone has a purpose.
“Touch” is trying out a complex idea, and I appreciate the effort and the creativity it takes to connect seemingly random characters. Where the show is losing me is in the predictability this format necessarily creates. I know where it's going. It's only the how that's a mystery, and it's not a puzzle I can't wait to see solved. The other problem is the increasingly mystical powers of Jake. He not only sees connections between people through numbers, he also seems to know the future. By episode two he strategically positions a baseball bat against a couch, anticipating that his father will need to use it in a fight that hasn't happened yet.
Page 2 of 2 - With “Touch,” Kiefer Sutherland is still saving the world, but this time it's Jack Bauer-lite. Unfortunately, I'm skipping this kinder, gentler version and looking for a repeat of “24.”
“Touch” is on Thursday at 9 p.m. EDT on Fox.
Melissa Crawley credits her love of all things small screen to her parents, who never used the line, "Or no TV!" as a punishment. Her book, “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's 'The West Wing,’” was published in 2006. She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.