Judge Alice Nelson once had a numerology reading that predicted she would marry a man named Pythagoras.
The boy never speaks, and the father never shuts up.
Touch reminds me of the now defunct CBS show Numb3rs, but instead of the arrogant elitist tool played by David Krumholz, there's a cute little mute boy who uses math to connect the universe. I can sum up this show using the immortal words of Marlene from the classic Seinfeld episode "The Ex-Girlfriend," who says in her slippery southern drawl, "It's all just so much fluff."
Facts of the Case
Martin Bohm (Kiefer Sutherland, 24), is a widower whose wife was killed on that fateful day in September 2001. Their lone child Jake (David Mazouz) is now 11 years old and hasn't spoken one word in his entire life. He is either autistic or suffers from some form of mutism; either way he has proven himself to be a bit of a genius. Mute or not, Jake has a mission to correct the injustices of the universe in the only way he knows how—with numbers. Since he can't or won't speak, he must use Martin to take his numerical clues and right the lives of those who have been wronged.
I'm not opposed to watching formulaic television; I'm a big fan of police procedurals, especially the original CSI, so I can sit through a show where the ending can usually be predicted before the big reveal. However, with the show Touch, its predictability is coupled with a heavy handed simplicity that makes it feel more like an episode of Sesame Street than a primetime television show.
Each week Touch opens with the mute kid narrating to the audience mystical views about the universe, which is intended to set up each episode. It ends with a summary of the show you just watched—in case you fell asleep or went into a diabetic coma before the show ended; which is quite possible, because it takes maybe ten minutes to figure out how each story will conclude. A typical episode is as follows: Martin gets the magic numbers from some obscure clues given him by Jake. Martin then follows these illogical and unbelievable paths that always lead to the reuniting of lost loves or long lost relatives—and just like that, the universe is slightly better.
I've never considered Kiefer Sutherland one of Hollywood's acting elite, and watching him in Touch, makes me long for the days when he played the mullet wearing vampire in the '80s film The Lost Boys. He spends most of the time like someone hyped up on caffeine, using this harsh breathy voice as if he's got some kind of respiratory problem. When he's talking to Jake, it's as if he's speaking to a well-trained Border Collie: "What does it mean boy? Is this where you want me to go?" It's like watching an episode of Lassie where Timmy is all grown up. It's hard to buy that this former reporter, widower, and father would risk life and limb in these ridiculously implausible situations. Each week's episode ends all warm and fuzzy and predictable and tedious, but at least it's done through mathematics—I guess. Of course no episode would be complete without one of Kiefer Sutherland's patented throaty screams at some point or another.
Mazouz is fine as the genius mute Jake, most of what he does involves lots of staring and glaring and writing tiny numbers in his handy dandy notebook. Because he doesn't like to be touched (ironic on a show called touch), Mazouz gets to use some of his acting chops screaming while trying to break away from any physical contact, accidental or otherwise. Jake's role is a complicated one; because of his condition he shows little to no emotion, so it's hard to really feel empathy for him as a character. You're not really rooting for Jake as much as you are his father Martin, who's the one taking all the risks week in and out. It is the surrounding cast that expresses the joys and frustrations that Jake cannot, and despite the long winded opening and closing narrations the Jake character provides, we never really know who Jake is or what he feels.
Lurking in the shadows of the Touch universe is a clandestine group using a state mandated facility to conduct secretive research on people with special abilities like Jake. Surprise, surprise, Jake has to live there after it is decided that Martin needs help caring for a son who often runs away from school and climbs atop a cell phone tower. Luckily both father and son are befriended by Jake's kindly case worker, Clea Hopkins, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Larry Crowne). Clea has a soft spot in her heart for both Jake and Martin, and when she begins to believe Martin's wild ideas that something fishy is going on at the care facility, she is odds with her boss, Sheri Strepling (Roxana Brusso), who seems to be hiding something. Both women are very capable actresses, the tension that builds between them because of Jake and Martin is palpable and they are two of the more interesting characters in the series.
With Touch, you have to buy into this far-fetched idea that the world is so predictable that people's behaviors are maneuvered through this numerical interconnectivity—like puppets on a string. This idea is propagated by Arthur Teller, played by Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon), a former employee of the facility whom Martin asks to help with Jake. Teller's character has so much potential, but is written like a walking, talking fortune cookie: peaking in riddles and giving non-answers to Martin's pleading questions. Teller seems like a throw-away character whose purpose is for one specific reason (which I can't tell you because it would give away too much), and due to this, he isn't developed enough to be effective. There's also an international flavor to Touch intended to show just how connected the universe is through various coincidences with people even a whole continent away. With all of this, not once is there ever any mention of a higher power, or a deity behind these miraculous occurrences, which makes the whole premise very hard to swallow for me.
Touch is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and has a nice crisp picture quality which makes for a pleasant visual experience. The Dolby 5.1 Surround mix allows for dialogue that is easy to hear along with the ambient sounds of a busy New York City. Extras include deleted scenes, the extended pilot episode, and two featurettes with the show's creator Tony Kring and Kiefer Sutherland—who is also the show's executive producer—expounding on the lofty ideas behind Touch.
Touch is an ambitious show with high-minded ideals, but it doesn't have much depth. If you miss one episode, don't worry because each week is a variation of the one that preceded it. Still, if you're curious, I suggest you stream it and save that hard earned cash for something far more worthy.
Cypher: 7 21 9 12 20 25. Meaning: Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
• Extended Pilot
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