Entertainment Magazine

Review #3253: Touch 1.1: “Pilot”

Posted on the 30 January 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: John Keegan

Going into this series, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After all, this was a show starring Kiefer Sutherland, and despite the glories of “24”, his choices in film projects have been variable, to say the least. And this is the follow-up vehicle for Tim Kring, who infamously took a great concept and ran it into the ground with “Heroes”, choosing endless repetition over creativity.

Review #3253: Touch 1.1: “Pilot”

There were also some unusual production-side issues that seemed to plague the show. Back during the May network upfronts, “Touch” wasn’t even developed enough to present a true pilot. Little was known about the series beyond the basic premise and Sutherland’s participation. And then there is this odd decision to air a “preview” episode in late January, followed by the “series premiere” in March. (Significantly, around March 18, which would have made a lot more sense had this episode aired that day!)

The end result actually fed into the anticipation for viewing this “preview”. Just what was this show going to be? That wasn’t just the response from the viewing public; a lot of professional media types were equally perplexed. I can only imagine that the strong showing of the episode was at least partially driven by sheer curiosity. And for all that, this pilot did everything possible to deliver something worth watching.

In essence, the story is about Jake, a mute autistic child who cannot handle being touched, yet has a genius facility with numbers beyond normal comprehension. His father, Martin, a 9/11 widower, struggles to give his son what he needs, only to discover that Jake might be tapping into an order of meaning that connects everyone on an unseen level. Thus we see, in parallel to Jake’s story, what his numerical discoveries mean in terms of the connections made throughout the world.

It’s all very positive in its approach, and more than a little uplifting, and that has its good and bad aspects. On the one hand, in the kind of troubled times we find ourselves in, this is a powerful counterpoint; if we sought the things that bind us, rather than focusing on what divides us, how much better could the world be? On the other hand, it comes dangerously close to being all too precious, with some of the connections being downright unlikely and even emotionally cloying.

I was reminded very much of the treatment of the “numbers” on “Lost”. From a certain perspective, the “numbers” were a subtle sign, within the fabric of reality, that a higher power (in that case, Jacob) was manipulating events, bringing artificial order to chaos through his own semi-capricious will. This almost feels like Tim Kring’s answer to that concept. The numbers within “’Touch” are an expression of an implicate order that certain individuals perceive.

This does have some potential, even if it feels like Michael Landon is going to step into a scene at any moment, with the theme from “Highway to Heaven” providing accompaniment. One might ask, especially based on the pilot, if Martin’s growing understanding of his son’s gift is an invitation to act, or part of the larger pattern itself. From a Christian point of view, is this an expression of God calling Martin into service, and is this just a subtle exploration of pre-determinism vs. free will?

I don’t mind that notion; after all, that’s essentially what “Lost” was exploring. What concerns me is how the concept works within the show. I felt like I was watching a solid independent film about how the concept of the Indigo Children from decades past could work within the framework of a Christian parable on the hidden workings of a higher power. As a stand-alone piece, this is a fine story. But by the end, I didn’t really feel like it was something I needed to see repeated again and again.

Part of the problem is that it feels like two shows mashed into one. There’s a nice drama about a father trying to understand the mind of his mute autistic son at the heart of the series, and I think that element could work perfectly fine on its own. Then there’s a show that is, essentially, an everyday fictionalized version of the documentary series “Connections”, about the unlikely path that led to the invention of everyday objects. Both sound like fine ideas on their own; the question is, how can both ideas work simultaneously, episode by episode?

And that’s why taking a break for almost two months is a bad idea. This “preview” ended so abruptly that it’s hard to reconcile that the follow-up is weeks away. How much of the audience is going to remember this “preview”, by the time the series actually starts? FOX is already crowing about the ratings, but in my mind, it’s still very much an unproven concept. The true success (or failure) of the series won’t be known until we’re much deeper into the first season.

So for now, I’m provisionally pleased with what I’ve seen, even if it feels a bit derivative in some respects. It’s good enough to make me want to see where they can take the show from here, though I have some misgivings that it could quickly turn into something repetitive. It’s just a shame that we’re going to have to wait to see how the series itself will evolve.

Writing: 2/2
Acting: 2/2
Direction: 2/2
Style: 1/4

Final Rating: 7/10

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