One thing I do love about Fox—they know that if they have a Kiefer Sutherland series at hand they can go for Event TV.
If you didn’t happen to catch the “preview” of Touch, Sutherland’s new series on Fox, I’ll either warn you that there be spoilers ahead, or I’ll ask you to mosey on over to their site to watch the pilot before reading further.
I admit it. I adored Sutherland’s Jack Bauer on 24. When I heard that Tim Kring (Heroes, Crossing Jordan) had created a show that Sutherland wanted to be a part of, even after wanting to get out of the daily grind of doing a television series, I was intrigued. When I read summaries online I was terrified.
Most of the summaries indicated that Sutherland’s character, Martin Bohm, was a single father dealing with a son who was autistic. I cringed. I admit it. I felt sure that the writers had seized on a current buzzword (and isn’t it horrible to consider it such?) and that they would do a terrible disservice to the disorder. We’ve all seen how television writers can play havoc with science and medicine to fit their needs, and I expected to see the same in this case. I watched the preview out of curiosity, dread, and a desire to see Kiefer Sutherland again.
I’m happy to tell you that I enjoyed it to bits.
Martin Bohm is a man raising a challenging son on his own. His wife died in the Towers on 9/11, and since then he’s plunged from a promising career in journalism to chucking around luggage for an airline. He’s dealing with children’s services frequently and the concerns of the school system almost daily. His son, who has never spoken and cannot handle human touch, has been diagnosed autistic. Every day is a trial for both of them.
During the pilot episode his son, Jake (David Mazouz) , is retrieved by emergency services from a dangerous situation for the third time, and it’s related to his obsession with the numbers, “318,” and cell phones. A social worker, Clea (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), visits the house to recommend that Jake be placed into a care home, and Sutherland’s portrayal of a father losing his son and his link to his late wife is devastating.
Woven through the episode are smaller tales featuring other characters that eventually link together to form a web. The viewer watches a businessman hop continents while attempting to locate his lost cell phone, a boy in the Middle East who urgently needs to provide his parents with a new oven, a singer in Ireland who hopes to become Internet Famous, and a rather dour man who Martin discovers is the most important stranger he’ll ever meet.
Martin (and Clea) eventually realize that the numbers Jake has been obsessed with throughout are a link to something far larger, and in the final scene my fears of Autism as Plot Device were put to rest. This child does not have Autism. The preview episode leaves the viewer with several questions, but the two biggest mysteries are these:
1. What has this child’s brain tapped into—
2. Where is he leading us next?
The Series Premiere of Touch will air on Fox on Monday, March 19, 2012.
Julie is finally catching up with real-time television again now that both of her kids have started sleeping during reasonable hours. She often can be found on her website Are You Gonna Eat That? and also on Twitter @jasummerell.