It’s somewhat ironic that leftover fans of 24 clamoring for that promised big-screen adaptation are having their patience further tested by news that the project is on hold pending resolution of potential scheduling conflicts for star Kiefer Sutherland, should genre-bending, supernatural series, Touch, be renewed for a second season. Not least because Sutherland plays essentially the same character – Martin Bohm, a widowed, world-weary yet resolute man shouldering an impossible burden (caring for son Jake, a mute child with perceived autism, as opposed to safeguarding the nation from terrorists). True to Sutherland’s patented style, Bohm is perennially just one hyperventilating moment away from a full-on meltdown.
Bohm is a former big-time reporter who, following the death of his wife in the 9/11 attacks is now sole caretaker of his son, Jake, who retreats from any human touch and has never uttered a single word. Underwater on bills stemming from Jake’s expensive care needs, Bohm quietly despairs as he watches Jake compulsively scribble sequences of numbers over and over. Numbers, it seems, that point to a hidden meaning of unification that only Jake can perceive, and that Bohm takes it upon himself to decipher.
Touch has all the makings of a template, number-sequence-of-the-week series, particularly since all evidence thus far suggests that the characters are drawn to facilitate the plot and not the other way around. The idea itself isn’t even particularly novel, as anyone who saw Darren Aronofski’s striking debut, Pi, can ably attest.
Hauling Sutherland back onto the small screen – from which he vehemently vowed to stay away after 24’s punishing schedule – is Heroes creator Tim Kring. Kring has a few strings to his bow, but a stringent command of subtlety is not one of them, nor is that anything Fox network has ever been particularly concerned with either. Yet even by their combined standards this is spectacularly heavy-handed, and, at times, borderline offensive. In laying the foundations for a weekly serial built around Bohm’s investigation of Jake’s numerical patterns Kring paints his metaphors with a brush so broad you could use it to slap up billboard posters in Times Square.
In just fifty-one short minutes Kring manages to patronize, to one degree or another; parents of autistic children, grieving parents of dead children, victims of 9/11, first responders to 9/11, Japanese businessmen, social service professionals, and, oh yes, the entire Arab Spring. If, on the other hand, you subscribe to the oversimplified mindset whereby two Iraqis stood together talking is a conversation, but three constitutes a terror cell, or that the thing that binds us together is not shared humanity but our collective obsession with smartphones, then you might buy what Touch is selling. Most, however, will be put off by the oppressive sentimentality, the lazy characterization (having saddled Bohm with a child with whom he can’t communicate, the writers believe that don’t have to do anything else to illicit sympathy), and the aggressively gimmicky nature of the plotting.