Preview: Touch (Fox) 1×1

Kiefer Sutherland in Fox's Touch

In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, Fox. Starts March 19th
In the UK: Acquired by Sky1

Firstly, can I just ask what BSkyB’s acquisition strategy is? If you have a new channel supposedly entirely devoted to US TV (Sky Atlantic), what is Sky1 doing acquiring this?

Anyway, that off my chest, let’s talk Touch. Remember Heroes, in which lots of people around the world discovered that they not only had superpowers but were interconnected in some way? Well, now we have a show from the creator of Heroes, Tim Kring, in which lots of people around the world don’t discover they have superpowers, but that they are still all interconnected in some way… and a kid with superpowers knows all about it.

Another great mental trek by US TV producers, then.

The slight difference in the set-up between Touch and Heroes is that there are really only three central characters – Kiefer Sutherland, a widower and former journalist who now takes blue collar jobs in order to pay for his son’s care; his son, who might be autistic, is at least mute, but who is the next step in human evolution, can see the future and can see how everything is interconnected; and British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, last seen in NBC’s dire Undercovers, as some kind of social worker who comes to discover that Kiefer’s son does indeed have superpowers.

But around the world, various lives are interlinked through the actions of Kiefer’s son, Kiefer, some cellphones and who knows what. Well, Danny Glover, in full loon mode, does.

Here’s a trailer.

About
From writer/creator Tim Kring (“Heroes,” “Crossing Jordan”) and executive producers Peter Chernin (TERRA NOVA) and Katherine Pope (TERRA NOVA) comes TOUCH, a preternatural drama in which science and spirituality intersect with the hopeful premise that we are all interconnected, tied in invisible ways to those whose lives we are destined to alter and impact.

Through masterful storytelling, the series follows a group of seemingly unrelated characters – beginning with a former firefighter tormented by his inability to save a dying woman, an Iraqi teenager who will go to great risks to help his family, a gifted singer whose actions at a karaoke bar save lives thousands of miles away and a British businessman desperately trying to retrieve a key piece of information from his lost mobile phone – who affect each other in ways seen and unseen.

At the center is MARTIN BOHM (Kiefer Sutherland, “24”), a widower and single father, haunted by an inability to connect to his mute, severely autistic 11-year-old son, JAKE. Caring, intelligent and thoughtful, Martin has tried everything to reach his son who shows little emotion and never allows himself to be touched by anyone, including Martin. Jake busies himself with cast-off cell phones, disassembling them and manipulating the parts, allowing him to see the world in his own special way.

After multiple failed attempts at keeping Jake in school, Martin is visited by social worker CLEA HOPKINS, who insists on doing an evaluation of the Bohms’ living situation. Although new at her job, Clea sees a man whose life has become dominated by a child he can no longer control. She believes his attempts to communicate with Jake are just wish fulfillment, and determines that it’s time for the state to intervene. But everything changes when Martin discovers that Jake possesses a gift of staggering genius – the ability to see things that no one else can, the patterns that connect everything. Jake is indeed communicating after all. But it’s not with words, it’s with numbers. And now he needs Martin to decipher their meaning and connect these numbers to the cast of seemingly unrelated characters whose lives they affect.

Along the way, Martin will be guided by BORIS PODOLSKY, a discredited aging professor who offers Martin a compelling but unorthodox theory about Jake and his rare ability. Whether it be chance, coincidence, timing, synergy or fate, there are events that touch us all, as part of an interconnected, dazzlingly precise universe.

TOUCH is a production of 20th Century Fox Television, Tailwind Productions and Chernin Entertainment. The series is created and written by Tim Kring. Kring, Francis Lawrence (“Water for Elephants”), Peter Chernin, Katherine Pope, Kiefer Sutherland and Suzan Bymel (“The War at Home”) are executive producers. Lawrence will direct the pilot.

Is it any good?
It isn’t half bad, actually. It’s entirely predictable, entirely implausible, and if you know even the slightest thing about science, your head will probably explode whenever anyone tries to rationalise it all. But the central conceit, which worked well for Heroes, less well for Six Degrees, has a nice, spiritual feel to it, the show can be touching at times, and working out how everyone’s going to end up interconnected is an interesting puzzle.

It has flaws, the most obvious of which is that most of the stories will get answered unsatisfactarily every episode and you’ll probably never see the characters again. The idea of a child who can communicate only in numbers doesn’t bear thinking about for more than a second. The home set-up and background to Kiefer and Kiefer Jr doesn’t work either. All attempts to do ‘overseas’ fail either slightly or catastrophically. And Guru’s character is essentially there to be disbelieving or encouraging, depending upon what the script demands, and characterisation, motivation, et al, will have to wait until future episodes.

But it still kind of works. Kiefer gets to say “Damn it!” and have the occasional fight. People who aren’t American get to turn up and be treated relatively respectively (well, except for the Japanese, for some reason). And just seeing the architecting of the massive coincidences, either by nature or by Kiefer Jr, is fascinating, just to see what Tim Kring thinks he can get away with. Worth a look in, at least, I reckon.

  • Jonathan Reed

    I think Sky’s idea with Sky Atlantic is that it’s a kind of premium HBO equivalent. In other words they mean to populate it with cable shows and more critically acclaimed basic network fare such as Friday Night Lights, Blue Bloods etc and Sky1 is for more mainstream popular basic network stuff such as House, Fringe, Glee, Simpsons and now Touch.
    I guess it doesn’t always match up perfectly to that rule but I think that’s their basic idea…

  • I don’t think Sky Atlantic was ever solely supposed to be US shows. That’s why it shows observational documentaries set among the fishing community in Cornwall and not-at-all-a-bit-like Come Dine With Me shows. I thought that it was just supposed to be the upmarket channel for premium programming. A BBC2 to Sky One’s BBC1 if you will. Or perhaps, more accurately an HBO to Sky One’s Cinemax.
    And of course, if Sky One stopped showing US imports, then they’d have an awful lot of airtime to fill. There are only so many hours of dance reality shows that they can use to fill those hours with…

  • Rob, Undercovers wasn’t dire. It was finding it’s rhythm. A shame it didn’t get more of a chance but the American South doesn’t take to a network series fronted by African Americans, you know, because of all the bigotry.
    Yes, I’m serious. That’s what killed the show here, I believe.
    Haven’t seen Touch. I’ve been burned by Kring before.

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