Touch (2012) – Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot” – Starring Kiefer Sutherland, David Mazouz, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Danny Glover, Roxana Brusso, and Karen David.
I suppose the proper thing would be to act like TOUCH exists in a vacuum and that this show has nothing whatsoever to do with 24 or Jack Bauer.
Doing so, however, makes TOUCH nothing more than a less masculine, more New Agey version of Early Edition.
The pilot episode of TOUCH is a bland bit of metaphysical nonsense in which Martin Bohm’s (Jack Bauer) son Jake doesn’t talk, but can predict the future. Which is awesome. Except that he can’t (or chooses not to) talk, and communicates with people by writing numbers and patterns in a completely sideways manner. For instance, he doesn’t tell social worker Clea Hopkins (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who played Martha Jones’ older sister Tish on DOCTOR WHO) that her mom is about to call, nor does he write down her mother’s number with a pencil and paper. No, Jake uses pieces of popcorn to “spell” out the numbers; the key is that Jake doesn’t seem all that interested in whether you get his message or not – he simply feels compelled to get the numbers out.
His dad is clearly struggling to find a connection with his son, which is why that social worker is hanging around in the first place. Martin used to be a journalist and married, and then 9/11 happened and his wife died. Now, he’s jumping from one social services unapproved job to another. Currently, he’s a baggage handler at an airport who pays off lost and found to take cell phones home for Jake to take apart.
It’s a perfect anti-Jack Bauer set-up. Where Jack was a TV-friendly version of U.S. Agent (which is the dumbest superhero name ever, Martin Bohm keeps Jack’s passion but Lifetimes the rest of the character down, so what we’re left with is a man who’s still driven, but one whose life has sputtered post-9/11 instead of finding a purpose. Jack Bauer was usually the one guy who could best understand any situation and he had to struggle to get others to understand him; now that insight has been given to his son Jake. Where Jack did everything for his country, Martin does everything for his son. Where Jack was his own instrument of action, Martin is Jake’s instrument.
All of this comes off as a kind of Earth 2 take on Jack Bauer. I argued (right here, in one of the Anxiety’s first posts) that Jack Bauer should have died at the end of 24 because the character had finally gone too far to be redeemed, and it’s easy to see Martin Bohm as Kiefer Sutherland’s attempt to give Jack that redemption.
We enter Jake and Martin’s life during a period where Jake keeps tripping an alarm on a cell tower at exactly 3:18 every day, and Martin begins to think this is odd. In a large sense, Martin’s sudden interest is a contrivance of the plot (he makes his leaps of logic a bit too quickly), but the show needs these things to happen quickly so it can set up the weekly formula of Martin struggling to understand Jake’s cryptic messages.
When Clea Hopkins shows up to do her evaluation, she’s all hard and business-like, but then Jake does the popcorn/numbers thing and Clea is instantly converted to thinking that there’s more going on that she normally sees. The social worker angle is a great one, because it will allow Jake to either not live at home (thereby making Martin a more sympathetic single dad while also giving Jake a permanent babysitter so Martin can run around and try to figure out what Jake means when he writes “318″ in a journal 8,000 times) or, at the very least, to give Martin a sidekick.
With Jake off at social services, Martin spends time at work doing a Google search on Jake’s abilities and ends up knocking on Danny Glover’s door. Professor Arthur Teller lives in a modest house and espouses crazy theories about the interconnectedness of the universe and how Jake can see all of the connections that no one else can until the show needs to introduce an Evil Jake to show how an Evil Martin can manipulate his kid’s abilities to make money. For now, Jake’s numbers put Martin in contact with the last man to see his wife alive (Titus Welliver), a fireman who carried her part way down one of the Twin Towers and then convinced himself she was dead so he could get out alive.
There’s a whole subplot here about a woman in a call center who wants to be a singer and a British businessman who’s lost a cell phone that contains the only pictures of his dead daughter and a Middle Eastern kid who gets turned into a suicide bomber in exchange for his parents getting an oven and … yeah, I’m not sure what’s supposed to be so great about all this. The interconnected nature of life? Okay, sure, I dug Magnolia just fine, but is this subplot going to be a part of every episode? Is it going to be fun watching three people who have nothing to do with one another have something to do with one another? Or are we going to get these three people back?
I’m honestly not sure which angle I’d prefer; they seem likely perfectly nice people but are we really going to get the forced connections every week of a kid who needs an oven coming into possession of a phone belonging to a man who sells kitchen supplies? Is the call center worker going to be this agent of convergence?
I don’t know, and I doubt I’ll be sticking around to find out. TOUCH doesn’t look like a show that you need to follow every week, so instead of giving it 3 or 4 episodes to hook me, I’ll probably check back in with episode 5 or 6 and see if the show has found a rhythm I can appreciate.
The pilot episode of TOUCH just doesn’t do much for me; there were some nice bits (such as Jake hugging Martin or the British salesman seeing his daughters pictures projected onto large outdoor screens in the middle of a city) but TOUCH pushes the interconnected nature of humanity a bit too far. While I like the positive message it pushes – that humanity, despite its individual foibles, is willing to help strangers – I dislike the maudlin nature of everything, and Sutherland’s time worn “I’m frazzled, I run, I sweat, I yell when I don’t understand, I yell when you don’t understand” Bauer-esque act isn’t a trip I have much interest in taking again.
And hey, if you’re so inclined, follow along on Twitter.