Touch: Advance Pilot

I’ll say this: Touch is interesting.

Touch is really, really interesting.

It’s not necessarily very good. It’s also not necessarily very bad. It inhabits this bizarre little place on the quality scale where it can tell a fascinating story, then a bland, useless one, and then ruin everything with a series of inane plot twists but then somehow come out on top in the end.

Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

No. No it doesn’t. But if you dare to “Continue  Reading,” maybe we can all work together to understand this a little better.

Touch centers around Martin Bohm, played with a decent mix of fatherly warmth and sad desperation by Kiefer Sutherland. Martin lost a wife on 9/11 and is now a single dad to his young son, Jake. Jake’s a precocious young lad who’s never spoken a word in his life but can see mathematical patterns in nature that somehow allow him to predict the future. Or… he can understand the meaning of life. Or something else. Something involving numbers. What Jake actually knows is never really that clear, and one of the show’s biggest flaws. But I’ll get to that later. Boy, will I get to that later.

So anyway, this pilot is split into two separate, basic stories. The first one (or “A story,” if you will) is the aforementioned “misunderstood child has special powers” business, but the second one (or  “B-story”) is a little more complicated. We follow a British businessman’s cellphone, from the moment it’s lost in an airport through its travels all across the world. Eventually it becomes clear that everyone who comes in contact with the cellphone is linked in some way, and when all of the pieces of the puzzle finally come together in a series of insane coincidences, Touch offers up some pretty powerful (if schmaltzy) moments

Sadly, getting to that sweet, creamy schmaltz center is a long, messy ordeal that has no bearing on the plot whatsoever. There’s a sprawling international cast of characters in this second story, and meeting them and understanding the trials and tribulations of their various lives takes up about half the episode. This, of couse, has nothing to do with the actual “magic boy” storyline at all (save for a moment in the first five minutes of the show where our heroic dad talks to the traveling phone’s owner). On the one hand, this story pays off in a way that’s much stronger than anything else in the show’s A story, but that’s also a huge disadvantage because it makes everything in that A story seem so much less important.

Also, I have a question about where they go with the multiple-people-having-connected-lives idea in future episodes. It all gets wrapped up, more or less, in the pilot, so is that it? Do we never see these people again? Do we get a whole new set of people in episode two, or was this a pilot-only type deal? Even though this whole storyline was the strongest thing in Touch, its presence raises enough questions and uncertainties to drag down every good thing it had going for it.

And at this point I feel I’ve dwelled on the B story enough- it’s time to move on to the more important goings-on here.

The A story here is really not that difficult- dad raises son with social problems, son actually has special powers rather then any kind of disorder, father struggles to understand that but eventually comes through and, with an understanding of his son’s gifts, is able to unintentionally prevent a catastrophic bus crash from happening. It’s nothing new, but it’s something that’ll work well enough if there aren’t any glaring, ugly errors in the story or the characterization.

Of course, there are plenty of glaring, ugly errors in the story and the characterization. First of all, it’s never clear at all what Jake’s abilities actually are. Apparently he has an innate understanding of math, and he can see a pattern in nature that lets him predict everything that will happen (as far as I can tell), but throughout the pilot, all Jake ever does is one of two things.

A: He climbs up cell phone towers for no reason, or…

B: He constantly references the number 318.

Also he can make a bunch of phones ring with the same number at the same time.

Eventually, of course, his father comes to understand the clues Jake is dropping and is able to prevent school bus number 318 from crashing at 3:18 PM on March 18th.

My question is this: can Jake predict happenings that aren’t based on a series of bizarre numerical coincidences? Since the constant parroting of “318” is all we ever see (for the most part), Jake seems less like some kind of prophet and more like Jim Carrey’s character in The Number 23. It’s not a good sign.

Also not a good sign: all of the characters doing asinine, unbelievable things.

Here’s an example- when daring dad Martin tracks down a foundation for supernaturally gifted children, all he finds is a lonely old man (a for-the-most-part wasted Danny Glover) in a residential home. Martin, thinking he’s got the wrong address, turns to leave, but stops when Glover calls out…

“Let me guess. Your kid keeps climbing a cell tower.”

And with that, Martin enters into the home, where he hears Danny Glover give a speech about how Jake is one of many young children who are the next stage of human evolution, having evolved beyond speech (explaining why Jake never speaks to anyone) and gained the ability to comprehend the mathematical formulas that make up everything in existence.

There are so many plot holes, glaring errors, and laughably bad ideas in this scene that I was tempted to just shut the whole thing off. The cell tower thing being a common element among all these children is bizarrely specific and never actually explained. Martin doesn’t hesitate in the slightest when he hears the whole “next stage of human evolution” thing and naturally assumes his son is a higher form of life without any doubt or distrust whatsoever. Also, if Jake has evolved beyond the need for speech, then how come his convoluted, number-based warning system for a bus crash take hours and hours to figure out, while saying the sentence “there will be a bus crash” takes approximately four seconds?

Like a lot of other new shows this season (Alcatraz, I’m looking at you), Touch sacrifices pacing, characterization, and any chance of believability so it can set up big climactic moments. Granted, the climactic moment we get here is actually very well-scripted and packs a decent punch, but I’d say that, overall, it’s not worth the wait. If everything here was a little more intimate and a little less “The Number 23 meets Babel,” we might have something truly special on our hands.

Sadly, we’re stuck with something that’s just some feel-good, throwaway fun. Go ahead and give it a watch if you think seeing a million little plot threads all converging in a tearjerker-y way is your cup of tea. If it’s not, Touch probably isn’t worth your while.

Also one last parting question: Why is this show called “Touch?” Jake never touches anything. His powers aren’t touch-related in the slightest. He’s just superhumanly good at  math.

No idea where that came from. Also, I’ll see you all next time. Thanks for reading.

28 responses to “Touch: Advance Pilot

  1. Interesting review. I heard a few good things about this one, actually, and think I want to give it a shot!

  2. Well, maybe the Touch is symbolic? Or they’re expecting to Touch ppl’s souls or sth? It sure hasn’t touched yours Adam 🙂

    I haven’t watched it yet but I agree with you when you say that if someone says to you ur kid has superpowers, u’d probably flinch at first rather than go along with it…

  3. I think the title of touch comes from the fact that the child doesn’t like to be touched. But the glaring problem there is that by the end of the episode he’s hugged his father for the first time. So if this show ever gets to a second season, there’s a Cougar Town-sized name problem for them to tackle!

    • That makes so much sense. Also you’re absolutely right- Touch is the perfect title for the pilot and nothing else. Unless they try to say that the kid only hugged his dad to get the phone out of his pocket, but that would make the whole emotional “hug” moment a huge cop-out.

  4. Y’know, when I saw a commercial for this I thought it was for 24, ahah. I thought, isn’t this show over, what’s Jack Bauer doing here?? Then the name came up, and I’m like TOUCH?? What in the world is this?? Well now I find out here that “His powers aren’t touch-related in the slightest.” That’s even more discombobulating (yeah I love using that word) 😀

    • It is a pretty great word. And in Kiefer Sutherland’s defense, I’d say he distances himself fairly well from the Jack Bauer character- his fame from that role doesn’t really affect his performance here at all.

      Still, Touch is pretty discombobulating (that is fun!) all over.

  5. Well, I watched the program because I thought is was going to be a story of a family struggling with an Autistic child… mistake. I was very interested at first until the whole thing took an ugly turn to the super natural and linking of all the lives. It got really ridiculous so I drifted away and I’m not sure that I would watch it again. It’s a shame because a show about life with an Autistic child would help allot of people understand these children with special needs and if hollywood would tap into the issue it may open the door for more opportunities as these children get older and have to find there place in society. Oh my, sorry I got on a soap box:.)

    Anywho, I loved Keifer in “24” and was so hoping for another good series from him.

    • No apologies necessary about the soap box thing! TV can be a great jumping off point to talk about social issues.

      And your comment made me consider something- it’s really quite rare to actually see a film/TV show about an autistic child. Usually I’ll see something with either an autistic adult (Rain Man, I Am Sam), or see an autistic child as a smaller part of an action movie (Mercury Rising, Cube, etc).

      Thanks for your comment!

  6. Hi, thank you for the ‘like’ and watch on my blog! This is an interesting review, it kind of makes me want to see it more, haha, just to sort of see what you’re talking about 😀 I hadn’t heard anything about it, so thanks for the review!

  7. I actually really enjoyed Touch. It had its WTF moments, I will admit, but it kept me guessing and was a far more entertaining hour than some TV shows. I am actually pretty disappointed that I have to wait until March to see the next episode. One thing you said about how, “Touch sacrifices pacing, characterization, and any chance of believability so it can set up big climactic moments.” made me think about how many shows have been cancelled due to their slower (pacing, characterization) starts. Unfortunately I think networks today are looking for instant grab programs. It’s really unfortunate, some of the best shows I’ve watched have started out slow, and I think ER would be a good example of that. But now it seems that if there isn’t a big climactic moment from the start it doesn’t get another shot.

    As for the touch part, I think it has less to do with the physical touch and more to do with the fact that this kid (in some odd, thus far unexplained way) has touched all of their lives from pulling his father from the British man’s phone call, to saving the kids on the bus, to even saving the Iraqi?? boy’s life by keeping the business man’s phone from him in the first minute. He even touched the firefighters life in both a physical and intangible way.

    I don’t know though, maybe I’m just a huge Kiefer fan looking to find salvation in a show that may be done quicker than the amount of time it takes the second episode to air.

    I appreciate the review though, at least if or (if many feel like you) when the show is cancelled, I will know why!! 🙂

    • I like your thoughts on the show’s title- the more I think about it, the more connections there are between the word “touch” and the events/themes present in the pilot.

      And I wouldn’t be worried too much about it getting cancelled- the pilot got some pretty high ratings, so I’d assume it’ll be sticking around for at least the whole first season.

  8. Hello there! Thanks for stopping by my spot…
    I missed this pilot and was curious about it. Thanks for explaining…hope to catch it next time

  9. I loved it and can’t wait to see more. It did leave so many questions but I look forward to the answers being given in the season!

    Thanks for these notes. I just watched the pilot episode and am glad to see Keifer Sutherland back on tv!

  10. I loved the pilot!
    I had not read anything about it before seeing it, and thought that it was a 24-ish action filled series. And then it was not! 🙂
    I loved the way the always confident Kiefer suddenly had no idea what to do! And as a mum I can surely relate to sometimes not having a clue what move to do next.

    Hope this series will keep us guessing towards the summer.

    Am I the only one that don´t like series to go on and on and on? If anything went wrong with Heroes it was that it did not end on a peak, they just kept milking it!

    • Shows going on past their prime is definitely a problem for me too- especially with shows like Dexter, that started off at a wonderful creative high point and ended up getting dragged through the mud after a couple unnecessary seasons.

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