REVIEW: Touch Lacks Resonance

The first thing you need to know about Touch is that the show title feels like a second-place contender because Numb3rs was already taken. The second thing you need to know is that the title does refer to young Jake’s dislike of physical affection, although it could also refer to the influence that he has on the lives of people around the world with his special abilities. The third thing is that Kiefer Sutherland is not Jack Bauer in this—in fact, he’s almost the polar opposite.

Kiefer’s character, Martin Bohm, is a widower that lost his wife to the 9/11 attacks. His fierce protection of his son, the aforementioned Jake (David Mazouz), is his number one priority, which has caused problems with things like keeping a steady job. Overall, he's got a fairly quiet nature.

Jake is a pixie-faced and curly-haired eleven-year-old who happens to be mute and autistic. He’s got a penchant for climbing cell towers and scribbling numbers in a notebook that he always keeps with him. Jake is also the narrator of our story.

The story is that Jake uses patterns to predict events. Seems pretty straightforward, right? That’s what I was hoping for, but the end result was convoluted. The show opens with Martin taking a call on a lost cell phone—there are photos on the phone, but it’s not what you’re thinking. There are pictures of her daughter that he needs to see. Unfortunately (or fortunately...cue foreboding music) the call gets cut off because Martin has to answer a call from his son’s school. Jake has climbed up on the cell tower at precisely 3:18 PM every day for the past few days. This behavior gets chalked up as a symptom of his autism and not as “maybe he’s trying to tell us something!” No, that discovery gets reserved for his father. It’s not long before child services gets involved. Clea Hopkins (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is the agent from child and family services and since I believe in giving credit where credit is due, she's a great character.

What follows is a domino effect of actions around the world. Let’s see if I can track this…there’s the dad that lost his phone. The phone gets passed along to a bar in Ireland and is used to film a girl named Kayla. The camera finds its way to a bunch of Japanese geishas, I guess, who become really huge fans of this girl’s singing. Across the globe, the phone guy is trying to reconcile with his wife. And in Iraq, there’s a young boy whose family owns a bakery and a broken oven. He resorts to stealing the oven but gets forced into becoming a suicide bomber with a phone-activated bomb. The phone is—you guessed it—that same cell phone. The dad calls the phone company trying to locate the phone and the customer service agent (it’s the same singing girl!) tracks down the phone and narrowly averts the bomb from blowing up because the dad happens to own a restaurant supply store. And the Japanese girls have downloaded the video onto Times Square so the girl’s singing goes viral AND the dad gets to see the pictures of his daughter. Everyone’s crying and I’m left feeling overwhelmed and blasé about what just happened.

And that’s not all! There’s this guy that’s played the same lottery numbers since 9/11 and he finally wins millions, but not before he gets into a scuffle with Kiefer Sutherland (showing a glimpse of his Jack Bauer side) in Grand Central Station. And it’s due to this delay that he SAVES A WHOLE BUS OF KIDS. I mean, that’s great and all, but whaaaaaat? Oh, and Danny Glover owns an institute in the Bronx for mutes. Seriously.

When the episode ended, I didn’t feel a thing, even though the swelling music and tender father-and-son moments and heartwarming voiceover told me that I should be chockfull of emotions. There was some fun mystery buried underneath all of that and I am somewhat invested in the relationship between Martin and Jake. I’m interested to see how they use Jake’s diagnosis in the future, but ultimately confused by everything else.

Touch needs to figure out how to ration its screen time. Additionally, it needs a crash course on how to appropriately evoke emotion because fabricated feelings can’t carry a show. Touch has two months to get all the kinks worked out, as it doesn’t properly premiere until March 19th. I hope that Tim Kring (the producer of Touch and previously of Heroes) and company use that time to work on building a solid foundation for the show.