One day at precisely 3:18pm, Jake (David Mazouz), an eleven year-old boy who has never spoken (except in pretentious voice overs), trips the security alarm climbing a cell tower. Why is he up there? Because Jake is gifted: he has an understanding of the world and its mathematical connections. His story, as well as the stories of other random characters, are tied together in the new FOX series Touch, which aired a special, advance sneak preview on Monday.
Let’s bitch it out…The show centers around Martin Bohm (Keifer Sutherland), who slowly comes to realize that his son, Jake – who doesn’t communicate or “touch” him – is seeing the world in numbers, sequences, and codes. When we meet Martin, his life is pretty bad. It’s clear that his son’s condition has taken its toll on him, as well as his professional career (we’re told he was once an esteemed journalist). Martin currently works at the airport, and despite doing everything he can to protect and raise his son, there’sa clear indication that he’s in over his head. The sinking/swimming metaphors are helpfully elaborated on by Clea (the deliciously named Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a children’s aid social worker. After the cell tower incident that opens the pilot, Jake’s case gets flagged and Clea is brought in to assess the situation. She also helpfully delivers a great deal of exposition: through her we learn Martin is a 9/11 widower, and we get an explanation of how he can afford to live in a giant loft in the meat packing district (Answer: his wife worked in the stock market).
Side Note: Is 9/11 widow/er the new character trait? See also: Oscar nominee Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It feels like the idea is trading on tragedy in order to solicit immediate sympathy and I don’t like it. End Side Note.
After Jake is put in a safe house for two weeks (mainly so that we can get to the interesting stuff without a kid saddling down the action), Martin finds a link to the Helfer Institute, which is run by Arthur Dewitt (Danny Glover), looking more and more like a crazy old man. Arthur is also Captain Exposition, so his wack-a-doodle explanations help Martin come to grips that perhaps Jake’s medical diagnosis was misguided and that his gift for numbers is part of something larger. Since this is from creator Tim Kring (Heroes), that “something larger” is dreams, destiny or a mixture of both. And that’s because everything and everyone is connected like circles, or waves, or seashells which Jake understands thanks to the Fibonacci numbers (soooo Touch = Babel meets Lost?).
Clea, meanwhile, also starts to believe there’s something exceptional about Jake when he writes out her mother’s phone number in popcorn (because that’s what kind of show this is). Together she and Martin follow the signs to a payphone (really?) at Grand Central Station (Martin uncovers the location by deciphering codes in Jake’s drawings…because that’s what kind of show this is: Touch = (Babel + Lost) x DaVinci Code).
It’s at the station that we have our first physical connection between the many random characters we’ve been following: Randal (Titus Welliver) – with whom Martin had an earlier altercation at the gas station – is using the payphone they’re seeking. So Martin goes all Jack Bauer and they get into a very public fight. Later we learn that Randal was calling Martin at that exact time to offer him money from his recent lottery win. The winning numbers are tied to Martin’s wife’s death and by beating Randal up in at the station at 3:18pm, Martin initiates a chain reaction that prevents Randal from leaving the city. Since he didn’t leave the city, Randal was around to save a bus full of school kids (that we saw at the start of the episode at the gas station where he and Martin first met). Soooo….Touch = (Babel + Lost) x DaVinci Code / Knowing?
The episode ends with Jake back up top the cell phone tower (in the rain….because it was mentioned at the start by a fireman and everything in the show is connected). Despite his fear of heights, Martin goes up to explain to Jake that he understands him and they have a really touching (read: emotionally manipulative) moment when Jake finally hugs him. The awwws are cut short, however, when we realize that Jake was reaching for Martin’s cell phone. Our pilot ends with Martin dialing the number Jake has programmed in, which connects him to…(drum roll)…Randal! Cut to black…
But wait! There are Other Characters:
- Kayla (Karen David), a call centre employee, becomes a viral sensation. The video of her singing is uploaded from a cellphone that her coworker stuffs in a random bag traveling from Dublin to Toyko and eventually finds its way online.
- Kitchen supply salesman Simon Plimpton (David de Lautour) is desperate to recover his stolen cell phone which has irreplaceable pictures of his dead daughter, Lily.
- Abdul Kozari (Shak Ghacha) is a young boy in Bagdhad whose family loses the oven they need to operate the family bakery, forcing him into criminal activities.
- Martin <-> Simon: Simon calls his phone early in the episode after Martin snags it at the airport to bring home to Jake (who collects them)
- Simon <-> Kayla: He speaks to her at the call centre in an effort to access his phone
- Kayla <-> Abdul: Abdul has Simon’s missing phone, which has been connected to a bomb. Kayla talks him out of detonating it by promising to secure him a new oven (wonder where she’ll get that from? Le sigh)
- The moment that Kayla and Simon interact on the phone as his missing pictures appear on the jumbotron behind him was nicely emotional, but less manipulative than the scene with Jake and Martin. I think because it was unexpected, whereas the rain, the cell tower, etc, was a little too obvious. I’m hoping that we’ll see more of the genuine emotional scenes as opposed to the forced kind.
- The visual look of the episode was well done, but someone needs to dial down the soundtrack. I found it veered better too cutesy (winding toy gears for wonderment and shocking connections) or too forceful (ACTION! DANGER!). Let’s not go for crazy extremes here, folks.
- Not unlike TVangie’s complaints about Alcatraz, there were too many “missed connections for dummies” in the pilot. I was pleased with myself to spot the 318 on the back of the school bus…until it was immediately followed up by a close-up of the numbers. I appreciate that not everyone is paying super close attention and you want to ensure that your audience understands that the connections are happening all the time, but please don’t feel like that gives you license to hit us over the head with this idea, ACME hammer-style.
So that’s it for Touch for a good long while. Since this was a sneak peek, we won’t get another taste until March (once Alcatraz has captured a few more 63s). For now, what’s your gut reaction on the series? What should we think of the fact that the pilot is interesting (yay) and different from everything out there (thank goodness), but that it was created by Tim Kring (gulp!)?
For now, only time will tell…