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.