Spring 2012 Review: Touch

31 Jan

I admit I came into Touch with a bias, but I don’t think it was an unfair bias.  Unlike Alcatraz and The River’s premises, which sound interesting to me, Touch’s didn’t really.  I also may have less fairly brought bias against Tim Kring, the creator of Touch and of Heroes, who I still feel bitter towards while watching for Heroes, but I did my best to avoid taking that into my review of the show.

Touch is the story of an autistic boy and his father.  The father, Martin Bohn, played by Kiefer Sutherland, is a former journalist whose primary occupation nowadays is taking care of his son, and he has cycled through dozens of menial jobs to provide.  He’s facing crisis after crisis with his son, Jake, who hasn’t uttered a word in his life, and does things like climb up cell phone towers, but who also writes down lots of MEANINGFUL NUMBERS.  Martin’s wife and Jake’s father died in the September 11 attacks, giving the show completely UNNCESSARY 9/11 OVERTONES, one of my biggest pet peeves in stories and shows about New York.  Yes, 9/11 was a seminal event in New York history and yes, it can be used in a very powerful way to tell stories, and many times it has been.  However, at least as many times, it’s kind of been shoved in peripherally in stories that take place in New York to add extra free gravitas.  The story is suddenly a lot more dramatic because it somehow relates to 9/11!

Anyway, moving on.  So, Martin struggles to control his kid, and in the first episode, a social worker comes to temporarily take him away and openly questions whether Martin is up to the task of taking care of such a difficult child.  Martin, who realizes that Jake is gifted in certain areas, is starting to see meaning or patterns in the numbers Jake writes down.  He struggles to figure out their purpose, and eventually visits Danny Glover, an outside-the-system specialist on children with gift’s like Jake’s, who gives Martin some advice.  Basically, he tells Martin, in this episode and every commercial for the show, that Jake is able to see patterns that run throughout the world that the rest of us can’t, and it’s Martin’s job to interpret the patterns which Jake spits out like a robot.  Martin follows the numbers, and eventually realizes that through a series of planned or unplanned coincidences the trail his son set him upon eventually leads to the saving of a bus full of schoolchildren.  The social worker eventually comes to believe this too after Jake performs his magic on her, writing out her mom’s phone number which he could have no way of knowing.

The other plot involves three people across the globe, a call center employee in England who dreams about being a singer, an English restaurant supply salesman with a dead daughter on the road in Japan, and a teenager in Iraq who wants to be a comedian.  These three through a series of cell phone calls from the salesman’s lost phone, which contained the only copies of some pictures of his daughter, connect and somehow make each of their lives better.  The only relation this plot has to the Martin plot is that Martin, in his job as a baggage handler, picks up the phone at the beginning before forgetting about it as it goes on a plane to the UK.

Oh, yeah, and mute Jake narrates the show, and gives us big meaningful lessons about how everyone is connected but how we non-autistic people can’t see it.

I didn’t really care for the show at all, but I don’t tend to like just about any show where the main messages are about fate and all being connected and which seem to attribute GREATER MEANING to all sorts of random connections.  The show played on some fairly cheap emotion that didn’t feel earned at all.  I don’t think an autistic kid spitting out brilliant numerical patterns which can save the world is compelling.  I loved Kiefer Sutherland in 24, so it’s unfortunate but it’s back to the drawing board for the next great supernatural show.

Also, interesting fact of the day:  Kiefer’s full name is Kiefer William Frederick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland.  Fantastic.

Will I watch it again?  No, I don’t think so.  I didn’t find the concept particularly interesting and the show itself certainly didn’t win me over.  I think a couple of fundamental tweaks with the concept could actually make the show significantly more interesting, but from the first episode at least it seemed like the show make a number of poor choices.

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