For eight seasons Kiefer Sutherland was 24‘s Jack Bauer. Not since Bruce Willis in Die Hard had a man shown such a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Sutherland was so convincing in the adrenaline show that it may take time for viewers to see him in his next role, as Martin Bohm, father of an 11 year old autistic boy, Jake.
Touch is another high-concept series written by Tim Kring (Heroes). There is jeopardy and problem-solving in this drama that Bauer may have addressed with his short-cut manner, but a few people may have been harmed in the process.
Jake has not only never spoken to his father, but he can’t bear physical affection either -hence the title. His father, who works as an airport baggage handler, doesn’t even know if his son can hear him. You would think after 11 years he would have figured that out by now. But after his wife was killed in the September 11 attacks, this single dad nevertheless loves his son.
Jake lives in a world of his own, forever scribbling numbers, pressing phones, climbing dangerous towers and ignoring all forms of authority. He’s become so out of hand that social worker Clea (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is threatening to report Martin to social welfare. Jake is so obsessed with numbers I keep thinking he should really meet Numb3rs genius Charlie. Or possibly Locke from Lost.
Such is Jake’s persistence with numbers and patterns that Martin finally clues onto the fact that the kid may be trying to tell him something. So he consults Arthur Dewitt (Danny Glover) who wisely convinces him that yes, there are patterns all across the universe and maybe Jake is trying to warn his father about something fateful.
Other sub-plots in the premiere include a teenage boy in Baghdad, a customer service rep in Dublin who dreams of being a singer, a hooker in Japan, a Londoner desperate to retrieve a missing phone and an American firefighter hooked on the lottery.
As in Heroes, Kring is again drawn to disparate groups across the globe, who are inextricably linked by his elusive plot. It makes it difficult to empathise with these when we don’t know how they fit in, and after a pile of promising high-concept dramas (Heroes, FlashForward, The Event) that didn’t go anywhere, I’m not sure I have the patience to see how they are all linked.
Touch is far more successful in the world inhabited by Jake and Martin, where we can see a father and son longing to communicate in a linear narrative. The first episode balances action and emotion well enough, and at least it doesn’t succumb to CGI shortcuts as this genre always does.
But the truth is, I’d rather just have Jack Bauer back.
Touch premieres 8:30pm Sunday on TEN.