Amid persistent rumors that a ’24’ movie may be in the works soon, Kiefer Sutherland has already returned to Fox primetime in the new series ‘Touch’, a drama with a sci-fi or possibly supernatural bent. The network ran a preview of the pilot episode last week and will pick up the rest of the show’s run in March. Unfortunately, the first episode didn’t really grab me. (Get it? Grab… touch… Yeah, that’s the best I got, sorry.)
Red Flag #1: ‘Touch’ was created by Tim Kring, who previously created ‘Heroes’, a show that started off promisingly, but quickly spiraled into unwatchable awfulness.
Red Flag #2: The basic premise of the show bears an uncomfortable resemblance to a howlingly stupid Nicolas Cage movie (I know, I need to be more specific) from a few years back called ‘Knowing‘. Yeah, remember that one? Whew, what a giant turd that was. While I wouldn’t say that ‘Touch’ is quite that bad… yet… it could very easily go that direction.
Sutherland stars as Martin Bohm, a former reporter whose life has fallen apart since his wife died in 9/11. He’s been working a series of blue-collar jobs in the meantime (currently as an airport baggage handler) and struggling to make ends meet. His young son Jake is autistic (or something close to it) and has never spoken a word – except periodically in voiceover narration to us in the audience. The boy cannot bear to be touched, even by his father. He also has a habit of climbing a nearby electrical tower, apparently because the writers of the show learned everything they know about autism from watching ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’.
Jake is obsessed with numbers, especially the number 318, which he writes in a repeating series over and over again. In trying to break through to his son, Martin discovers that Jake’s numbers can predict the future. A wise black man played by Danny Glover (a character type that Spike Lee would describe much more harshly) explains that certain special people are tapped into the inner workings of the universe and can see all the pathways that people and events follow in the past, present and future. This storyline culminates on March 18th (you know, 3/18) at 3:18 PM, where Martin meets a former firefighter named Randy (Titus Welliver from ‘Lost’) who has won the lottery by playing Jake’s numbers, and also tried to save Martin’s wife on 9/11. Their encounter sets off a chain reaction that results in Randy saving a school bus full of children from a terrible accident.
Intertwined with all of this is another storyline about a British man who has lost his cell phone, on which he had saved the last photos of his dead daughter. The phone changes hands numerous times and travels the globe from Martin’s custody at the airport, to an Irish girl who wants to be a pop star, to a Japanese prostitute (really!), to a poor teenager in Iraq who almost becomes a suicide bomber so that his family can afford a new oven.
Obviously, the show is heavy with themes of fate and destiny, and New Age-y bullshit about the interconnectedness of all things. I’m not buying very much of this so far. Sutherland plays his role with all of Jack Bauer’s growling and short-temper and huffiness, but none of the badassness. Frankly, I found him kind of annoying here. On the other hand, ‘Pilot’ is a very handsome episode, slickly directed by Francis Lawrence (‘I Am Legend’).
Honestly, I’m not sure if I feel up to following this further or not. It’s not bad per se, but I didn’t love it either. It could get either much better or much worse as it goes. Given Tim Kring’s track record, I fear for the latter.
The next episode of the show will air on March 19th. Not 3/18, but 3/19. This makes me feel like the Fox executives in charge of scheduling didn’t bother to watch the pilot at all.