Seasoned television veterans immediately think of the patriot character Jack Baur when the name Kiefer Sutherland tops credits. Following the demise of Fox’s fabulous but intense drama, 24 Sutherland was offered a new script by the same network. The premise of this series is, on the surface the complete opposite of 24 but in looking deeper, it’s merely wrapped in a much different package.
Like so many New Yorker’s, Martin Bohm’s life was forever changed by 9/11. His wife worked in one of the towers and was one of the victim’s whose remains were never recovered. Now, some eleven years later, Martin (Sutherland) has given up his work as a journalist and has shifted from job to job while attempting to raise his son, Jake (David Mazouz). Unable to keep him in a school, Martin’s problems intensify when the state becomes involved and decides it’s time to place the autistic Jake in a group home for evaluation. For eleven years, Martin has been unable to communicate with his son who hasn’t spoken a word but in fighting to keep custody of Jake, he realizes that through elaborate number patterns, Jake is finally trying to tell his father something – events that are on the verge of changing the course of dozens of lives.
Unique is the best way to describe this series. It’s poignant but (short!) powerful first season is on DVD now, and a second is already in the works for this month. Before getting to all the good stuff, I’ll just say if there is a downside to the show, it’s that instead of the usual 20-soemthing episode run, this is downgraded to being a mid-season filler. Fortunately it fills up those thirteen episodes with some of the best writing on television today.
Contemplating if life is merely a series of coincidences or if we are “destined” to eventually meet the people who could change our lives, touching them in ways we didn’t know was possible – or for reasons we may not have even recognized needing, is the revolving theme. That is what Touch is all about. To confess, it’s an interesting concept, and a refreshing one at that, breaking molds from the usual crime drama that takes up so much airtime. There’s something “real” about each of the scripts, they follow a pattern and I particularly enjoyed seeing so many of the people who were unwittingly and unknowingly helped by Jake’s obsession with numbers come back into the shows periodically. Given that Jake doesn’t speak, it was also interesting to hear his voice-overs setting up the theme of each episode. A character who doesn’t speak is a fascinating one and Jake certainly is. Sutherland steps into this role quite well. We sympathize with his Martin for all he has been through and the struggle that is ensuing between he, the state and eventually a resentful sister-in-law. It’s in the quiet moments when he attempts to bond – or communicate with his son that we are most touched (no pun intended) by his dedication to Jake, and we are never given to second guess his love for him. Similarly, the most poignant things are the rare times when Jake actually connects with his father, whether it be physical or emotionally, those are the most “real,” heartwarming scenes.
Joining the already talented Sutherland – and fabulous child actor, David Mazouz is Gugu Mbatha-Raw and in a season ender two-parter, the talented Maria Bello. Each of these talents adds much to the scope of the show though Mazouz in particular is impressive given his acting talents must be felt not heard. Shaping up the rest of the elements are various faiths that come into play, some great stories and instances of surprising forgiveness. Surprising even the most discerning viewer, the story isn’t usually hard to make connections, it’s the impact of those interwoven stories that means the most. Writers don’t hide how everything will come together but those eventual connections pack a punch. By the time the finale runs credits, the viewer has to admire the leap that is made in the show. Setting up the second with some new people and a different location takes some television-writing guts since it shakes up the “comfortable” setting. The gamble seems worth it to me, hopefully Fox TV-goers will feel the same and reward it.
(Parental concerns: In the episode “Lost & Found,” a homosexual couple enters the story [only this once] looking to adopt. In the pilot, we meet a pair of prostitutes who pop up off and on after they leave their life to travel the world. There is some violence and “adult” issues dealt with; a man contemplates suicide, another is found dead with talk of having been murdered. Rating is TV14.)