First things first. Anyone hoping for some sort of 24 reprise here should prepare themselves for some disappointment, because Touch is a very different kettle of fish indeed.
Instead of being an all-action maverick with a knack for busting terror cells, Kiefer Sutherland is now a tentative single-father trying to relate to his autistic son and rather than a taut yet effective neo-security thriller, this new Fox offering is an ambitious and expansive humanity fable which starts big.
But is it any good? Well at this stage, despite a strong performance from our previously mentioned star, it’s difficult to make a case for it, but it’s certainly not a lost cause. The series revolves around Martin Bohm, a former journalist whose wife died in the 9/11 attacks, leaving him to look after his mute and autistic son Jake. The youngster can’t bear to be touched and has never spoken, but shows an uncanny ability to predict the future by reading natural patterns in the universe that the rest of us miss. Meanwhile, a British bloke has lost his phone containing images of his late daughter, a young lad is trying to steal an oven to feed his family in Afghanistan and a talented Irish singer is performing in her local bar. There’s also a bloke with loads of lottery tickets, some Japanese school-girls and probably a few other side-plots that I’ve forgotten about. As you may have guessed, Touch is nothing if not busy.
The trouble is, with all this going on, this first episode is often too maddeningly rushed to be entertaining and it’s difficult to get a handle on the central father-son relationship which the whole thing hangs around. Maybe I’m a simpleton, but I couldn’t help but feel that fewer threads and more exposition might have been an improvement at this early stage, especially when the show seems to have crammed so much on its plate and is eyeing up seconds.
Oh and I almost forgot about Danny Glover, who pops in for a few minutes to explain that rather than being a bit of a freak, young Jake is in fact ‘the next stage of human evolution’, who doesn’t speak because he has no need to. If we forget the fact that he’s actually made his life significantly more difficult by not speaking (a step that’s inherently anathema to progress) the whole idea itself is just a bit ludicrous. But then this great vista of rhubarb was written by Tim Kring, who started believing his own hype on Heroes and went a bit mental.
If you thought all that was a bit outlandish, it’s even more surprising to hear that Touch will not be a serialised drama and although we’ll be following a central character-arc with Martin and Jake, the tangential characters will be replaced from week to week. This not only goes against the contemporary grain with more ferocity than canned laughter in a sitcom, but leaves the plot-lines wide open to accusations of contrivance. The story-arc in which the businessman’s lost images flashed up in Times Square was a touching finale, but the whole bit with the comedian-turned-suicide bomber felt a bit too pat. I’m not against risk-taking drama, but it’s a very dangerous game and you need to nail it.
It’s not hard to see what the writers are getting at here and the premise that ‘we’re all connected’ is an interesting one, yet there were just too many leaps of faith for disbelief to be truly suspended. It’s all too easy to tie everything together at the end of an episode in a bid to make something appear clever, but ultimately Touch won’t stand or fall on its perilously intricate maths, but the relationship between the father and son at it’s centre.