By Curt Wagner
5:06 PM CST, January 24, 2012
Has Jack Bauer gone soft? You could think so if you watch the sneak peek airing of Kiefer Sutherland's new drama, "Touch" (8 p.m. Wednesday, Fox; 2.5 stars).
Sutherland, who for eight seasons starred in Fox's "24," is so identified with badass spy Bauer that some might find it difficult to buy him as Martin Bohm, a sensitive, compassionate dad mourning the 9/11 loss of his wife and his inability to communicate with his son Jake (David Mazouz), who has been misdiagnosed as autistic.
But don't despair, "24" fans. Sutherland gives us a couple Bauer moments: When Martin is faced with a ticking-clock scenario and his voice tightens with tension, I half expected him to shout, "I need it now Chloe!" He also gets into a fight at a gas station.
I think the producers were hedging their bets, yet Sutherland can play tender, too. Martin's despair, anger and desparation come through that distinctive, gravelly voice we're used to hearing shout threats. The voice softens, as does Sutherland's demeanor, even when Martin has to once again save Jake, who has a habit of climbing cell phone towers.
Jake spends most of his time scribbling numbers in notebooks. In Wednesday's pilot, he writes 3 and 18 over and again. Martin is at his wit's end as to what any of it means until he finds the Teller Institute, which is run by a guy in a bathrobe out of his run-down home. Teller (Danny Glover) explains that Jake is really a genius, and that the patterns he draws show that he has discovered the Fibonacci sequence, the mathematical pattern that is basically the code for the entire universe.
In essence, Jake can predict human connections with the numbers and patterns he sees, and if Martin can “read” them, they can connect as well as help other people.
It’s all very new-agey and a bit pretentious. And that’s the rub with "Touch." It comes from "Heroes" creator/big idea man Tim Kring, who wants to show viewers how our lives inevitably touch each other—if we just recognize the patterns. What does a man who lost his cell phone in the U.S. have to do with an Irish pub singer have to do with an Arab suicide bomber have to do with a lottery winner have to do with a boy named Jake who climbs cell phone towers?
You’re going to find out if you stick around for the hour-long pilot.
That hour is well-executed and intriguing, if emotionally manipulative. But I'm curious how the show will play out on a weekly basis when it returns March 19. Like I said, Kring’s a big idea man, but in "Heroes" those ideas got lost in the execution. "Touch" has the continuing story of Martin's attempts to connect with Jake and how a social worker (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Teller will help, but Sutherland himself has said the show is a procedural about how Jake and his numbers—with Martin's help—will bring disparate people together.
Seems to me like that could get old, even if Martin goes a little Jack Bauer at times.
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