To dad, numbers don't add up

Kiefer Sutherland plays a father baffled by the mute son (David Mazouz) who keeps writing mysterious numbers over and over.
Kiefer Sutherland plays a father baffled by the mute son (David Mazouz) who keeps writing mysterious numbers over and over. (RICHARD FOREMAN / Fox)

The new "Touch" begins intriguingly, but it could become formulaic.

Posted: January 24, 2012

Kiefer Sutherland returns to his home network, but this time he's playing the anti-Jack Bauer: a sensitive and compassionate, endlessly patient family man.

His Martin Bohm is a former newspaper reporter and single father trying to raise his mute, autistic son Jake (David Mazouz) on a succession of blue-collar jobs.

The only things that keep Jake pacified are orange soda and cellphones, which dad gets by the boxful from the lost and found at JFK airport, where he's working as a baggage handler.

Scary travel fact: At least one of the phones in Martin's haul was dropped by a passenger less than two days previously, so if you leave something at the airport, be aware that you have 24 hours to reclaim it before it's fair game for anyone on the maintenance staff to take home.

Jake spends most of his time furiously scribbling numbers in notebooks. In the pilot, for instance, it's 3 18 over and over. Martin can only pace, fretting, "What does it mean? What do the numbers mean?" (Long after this one-time, post-American Idol sampling, Fox's Touch will assume its regular slot on March 19: Mondays at 9.)

Luckily, Martin stumbles across the prestigious Teller Institute. It's a one-man, five-housecat operation run out of a messy living room by a guy (Danny Glover) in a bathrobe who looks like he lives on saltines.

After a discourse on the cosmic wheel and electromagnetic energy, Teller explains that young Jake is one of those geniuses who have independently discovered the Fibonacci sequence, the mathematical pattern that preordains the entire universe.

This, of course, changes everything - including the channel, if you're smart, because you'll realize you've wandered into a bad remake of the 2009 Nic Cage movie Knowing, which had all the flavor of an SAT prep course.

Actually, we already knew Jake was plugged into the secret of life because he told us so. He may be silent on the show, but he's super-chatty in the narrative, informing us it's his "job to keep track" of numbers representing the people whose lives are supposed to touch.

In the hands of Touch's creator, Tim (Heroes) Kring, lives touching means incredibly intricate and unforeseeable coincidences coming together across international borders. What does an Irish pub singer have to do with an Arab suicide bomber? You're about to find out.

The other regular in the cast is Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a family services envoy who also becomes convinced of Jake's prescience. There's room, too, for juicy guest roles, like the one Titus Welliver (Lost) has in this hour.

The pilot for Touch is actually rather intriguing and well-executed. My problem with the show is projecting how well it will play a couple of months into its run, when week after week the seemingly unrelated plot threads all have to come together in a neat braid at the end of an hour, nudged along by the random string of numbers Jake has provided.

"What are you trying to tell me, Jake? 3 16? Do you want me to bet on Tebow and the Broncos?"


Contact television writer David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552, dhiltbrand@phillynews.com, or @daveondemand_tv on Twitter. Read his blog, "Dave on Demand," at www.philly.com/dod.

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