Touch: Tim Kring's Global Group Hug

We're rerunning this review of the Touch pilot, which originally aired as a "special preview event" in January, because the episode aired again tonight in preparation for the show's official premiere. And by "official premiere," we mean "Episode 2": Look for it next Thursday, March 22 at 9pm on Fox.


Come on, guys, bring it in. That's right, let's all put our arms each other and have a good cry. The debut of Touch, Fox's new drama about cosmic interconnectivity, was an eyeball-wringer, stretching heartstrings and kidnapping the soft spot in our brain that prevents us from becoming blubbering, tearful idiots. The pilot episode, which aired tonight as a special "advanced preview" (the series officially begins on March 22) again tonight in preparation for next week's official premiere, was a momentary redemptive return to television for Tim Kring, the once-cherished-and-ultimately-maligned creator of NBC's Heroes. Heroes started out great and gathered a devoted audience before eventually becoming a benchmark for television's spectacular falls from viewers' good graces. Though hardcore fans will tell you otherwise, there's no other way to put it: Heroes stank at the end of Season 1 and kept on stinking through Season 4, collapsing under the weight of its own over-ambition.

It's too early to tell where Touch will end up, but so far, things are looking fairly good. Before Heroes went to carnivals and added a new character every thirty seconds, it worked because it deftly handled themes of belief, power, and change. Touch looks to be equally theme-heavy, focusing on the universe's grand plans for us all. I'm a sucker for strong themes, because shows with strong themes are the ones that stay with you long after you watch them.

Martin Bohm (Kiefer Sutherland, in his first TV role since 24) is a widowed man struggling to support his mute and possibly fortune-telling son Jake (newcomer David Mazouz, who is great as a kid who can't actually do much). Jake is lost in a world of numbers and patterns; the pilot saw Martin, after witnessing a few eerie events, start to believe his son was using those numbers and patterns to try to communicate. Social Services thought otherwise, and recommended that the government intervene to give Jake the support he needs. It was dad trying to hang onto his son after mom was killed in the September 11 attacks, which formed the emotional backbone of the episode and eventually branched out far beyond Martin and Jake.

The pilot jumped all over the globe: a teen boy in Baghdad faced the threat of his family's bakery shutting down, a female customer service rep in Dublin dreamed of being a singing superstar, a Japanese escort became a vessel for a message, a traveling businessman was desperate to see photos of his deceased daughter that were saved only on his lost phone, and an American firefighter named Randy (the always awesome Titus Welliver) played the same numbers in the lottery over and over and had a scuffle with Martin at a gas station. These stories unfolded slowly in bits and pieces, but never strayed from getting to the point.

In seeking answers for Jake's troubles, Martin eventually came upon Arthur Dewitt (Danny Glover), a man who would normally be institutionalized for all the psycho-babble that came out of his mouth with regard to what he called Jake's ability to understand the hidden messages of the universe. But this is Touch, so all his chatter about patterns, quantum entanglement, and pineapples turned out to be sage-like wisdom (a single bonus point for changing the trope of "old black woman as oracle" to "old black man as oracle"). He told Martin that it's his duty to use the clues Jake presents as a road map to figure out what his son can see. And there's your scoop on what the rest of the series will probably look like.

With this sense of destiny put upon him, Martin flipped through Jake's numeric scribbles and pulled out a phone number, which he back-traced to Grand Central Station in New York City. Jake's social worker, Clea (Undercovers' Gugu Mbatha-Raw, or as I like to say, Mbatha-RAWR 'cuz she fiiiine), learned firsthand that Jake was a little magician when he spelled out a phone number in popcorn. She recognized the number, and moments later, her phone rang with a call from that same number. Jake later circled March 18 on the calendar (the day's date), and Martin and Clea realized that something was going down. They sped to Grand Central, Martin called the phone number, and it led them to a payphone that Randy was using. At this point, we didn't know whether Jake was trying to prevent Randy from setting off a bomb or whether it was all a big ball of hooey, but Martin and Randy resumed their fight from the gas station and were restrained by security, forcing Randy to miss his train. Something seriously cosmic was going on that our puny brains could not comprehend.

Martin got home and received an old phone message from Randy, the same message he was trying to leave when Martin interrupted him at Grand Central. Randy had called Martin to tell him he was at the World Trade Center during the attacks on September 11, and was carrying Martin's wife to safety when he couldn't carry her any longer. He regretted leaving her behind, and said he was giving away all his recent lottery winnings because he felt that's what she would want. A stunned Martin had only a millisecond to register all this before a TV newsflash showed Randy on the screen, being interviewed because he'd rescued kids from a burning school bus... a school bus that Jake had previously shown interest in. Randy said he wouldn't have had the chance to rescue the kids if he'd made his train, which he missed because Jake's clues sent Martin to intercept Randy. It was a busy day for Randy.

In the episode's exhilarating ending, all the global stories came together like in those Liberty Mutual ads where one person witnesses someone doing a good deed for someone else, and pays it forward. The kid in Baghdad got an oven for his family only after the customer service rep talked him out of being a suicide bomber. The rep found internet fame after the Japanese escort had video of her plastered on giant screens in Tokyo, video she got from a phone that found its way into her hands. The London businessman got to see his daughter because he happened to be in Tokyo as the contents of his phone were shown on those same screens. And because Mr. Businessman was a restaurant supply salesperson, he was presumably the man who got the kid in Baghdad the oven via the customer service rep. Cheesy as it sounds, it was all packaged very well and required a few handkerchiefs to get through.

They were thrilling moments driven by emotion, a wonderful score, and strong performances from the bit players. Each story was given just enough time to latch its meat hooks into our cold hearts, and when London Businessdad saw his dead daughter on giant screens and started to cry, it pumped the well that held our tears. Or at the very least, came close.

Annnnnd here's where I become a big party pooper. Touch, particularly the ending I just talked about, does smack of emotional manipulation and feel-goodiness just for the sake of feel-goodiness, like a giant Hallmark monster that sustains itself on tears of joy. There's nothing outright wrong about that. We watch television to feel all sorts of things. And the thrill I got from that ending during my first viewing of the episode was genuine and made me hug my cat HARD. But is this what we'll endure with each episode? If so, how long will it be until audiences say, "Oh this again."

As a series, how will everything work? Will Martin always be waiting for Jake to churn out numbers like he's a living version of the computer from Person of Interest? Will that lead to Martin and Clea in a case-of-the-week style adventure to make someone's life better as if they're in a fictional version of Extreme Home Makeover but for lives and not homes? I have no idea how Tim Kring will be able to sustain this premise.

Will Touch operate like an anthology, with half of each episode dedicated to stories not related to Martin and Jake? Or is it satisfying enough to connect the two because Martin does something like leave a phone on a random suitcase, thus setting those seemingly unrelated things in motion?

And what about all the numbers and their connectedness, particularly Jake's obsession with the number 318? I get that "3/18" related to the date of the bus accident that was going to be prevented. But was Jake only able to connect that particular bus to everything because it was bus number 318? What if it was bus number 317? And how did going up on the water tower at 3:18 relate? And when he went to circle March 18 on the calendar, he was clearly communicating in a way we could understand. So can he communicate or not? Will Jake set his alarm for different times depending on what numeric combination he's obsessed with each week? It may seem like Kring is trying to form connections just because he can, but he will always be able to get away with doing so as long as the interconnectivity is set against something that we will never be able to understand (only Jake gets it). It's like the argument that God exists because you can't prove that he doesn't.

What Kring does have working in his favor are lessons he learned from Heroes. If the story structure of the Touch pilot is any indication, Kring will be able to preach his word across the globe (as he likes to do) with disposable characters rather than populate his series with a cast equal in size to the population of New York City. He'll also be able to focus on the relationship between Martin and Jake and air out his other less-formed concepts in standalone stories. Kring had good ideas with Heroes, but couldn't maintain them beyond a few episodes. An environment in which he can forget about them after a week should benefit him.

Thematically, Touch's pilot worked very well and should leave viewers with a better sense of their place in the world. The fewer questions you ask about plot, the more enjoyable it is. But there WERE a lot of questions that came up, and they interfered with my absolute enjoyment of it. As a passing piece of art, the episode did the trick, and there's enough going on to get me to tune in for Episode 2 in March. But when considering whether this numbers-and-patterns drama will be Fox's great next series, it's wait-and-see regarding whether it'll add up.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom
Comments (86)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Sounds awful, one of the main problems with Heroes by the end was the over reliance on sentimental schmaltz, and the idea of it's own self importance, a show ego if you will. The whole little kid/numbers thing just seems unbelieveable, and if Keifer Sutherland is not being Jack Bauer then I don't want to see him on TV, his range is not that big.
Reply
Flag
In my own opinion, Keifer is taking up a role as that of jack in 24. I'm just thrilled by the way he uses his words and his actions.
Reply
Flag
Good pilot, but I'm struggling to get motivated to invest in this show, or any show by Tim Kring. Heroes went from so good to so bad so quickly, with so many opportunities missed to fix it, that I wish I had never bothered in the first place. Heroes now is just depressing as a 'what if'.



I hope Mr Kring learns the most important lesson, in my opinion. After creating the concept, building the show, step back and let someone else take over the creative reigns. Be known as a great show creater, and move on to a new project while others deal with continuing the concept.
Reply
Flag
Loved the first episode...Certainly worth to watch
Reply
Flag
The first episode was amazing. Great writing and the cast is wonderful. So many memorable scenes.
Reply
Flag
Definitely gonna be watching this for Kring and Sutherland. But regarding Heroes, I thought the Carnival was a slight rise in quality over the previous bad season, and the Irish villain was everything a superhero needs, he craved power and threw an epic tantrum when he lost it, the scene where he is left powerless and defeated at the end is probably my all time favourite scene from Heroes. Then stupid Claire is stupid and the series finishes on a low.
Reply
Flag
Just saw Touch tonight and I thought it was really well done! Every time something connected came about - the lottery win, the phone number for Clea's mom, etc, I got super excited. And when it all reached it's zenith in Toyko, I was hooked.



However, I am also leery of how it's going to be played in following weeks. How is it going to happen? Someone can't always lose their phone. And really, the terrorist was ok that the kid didn't end up bombing anyone and just let him and his family have their new stove?? Kinda sketchy there, glossing over it but I get it. It's about the good things in life.



I'll keep watching and hope it stays this good!
Reply
Flag
Finally got a chance to see Touch and my expectations were pretty high with articles such as Tim's giving it the thumbs up and man, was I disappointed... This was a very half baked idea, low in originality and with some awful acting by the key character: Sutherland's overacted, overemotional performance failed to convince me or have me connect with a guy whose personal tragedy is, paradoxically, so compelling (his unprovoked rant at the social worker made me cringe). Sure the tour of the world by mobile phone was an effective gimmick but a contrived one full of the worst of cliches: Japanese business men hooking up with giggly (and underage) prostitutes or the worst of all, the suicide bomber for an oven....

- Some redeeming factors: the kid's acting was pretty good as was the story with the fireman (just that story was enough for me or could have been say 90% of the ep) so intensely but well acted by Titus Welliver - I wish he was playing Jake's dad....
Reply
Flag
After letting it sit on my DVR for a week, I finally got around to watching it. And I sure am glad I did. Literally just finished it 5 minutes ago and am fighting tears. That kid's fantastic. And the numbers were pretty good, second highest rated drama premiere this season. Hoping it can remain at least in the 3.0-ish range when it airs after House in March.

Reply
Flag
It - was - AWESOME!!! That kid deserves an EMMY just for the way he looks down from the telephone tower to the father and (with only the edge of his mouth) smiles ... The theme of the series is beautiful and potentially unending. Let's hope the writting don't dissapoint it...
Reply
Flag
Oh gods unnecessary numbers of normal people... in a show... Doing normal things but its all connected. Sounds like Tom Clancy ran into Tim Kring on the bus and hashed this all out while smoking a large amount of THC.
Reply
Flag
One problem, "Touch" may run into on Monday at 9 PM is in direct competittion with "Dancing With the Stars" and "The Voice." It would have a better chance on Wednesdays. The premire episode was fascinating. Good story line with terrific actors. I am concerned about how many story lines will they have going on at the same time. Good review, Tim.
Reply
Flag
i'can't expect less from the "jack Bauer",kiefer, you did it again,,,,,,,,,,
Reply
Flag
Having never read the show, but this recap, and the first few comments, it crossed my mind that this kid may attract the attention of the "let's use him to our own advantage"/"dissect him and see how he works", (fill in the country here) government.



There's your antagonist.
Reply
Flag
Touch is awesome, but one ? why do we have to wait until March for the the next or as Fox puts it the premiere and why on Monday keep on Wednesday oh I know Idol, Monday is just busy for me tv wise but great pilot loved it
Reply
Flag
I really enjoyed this and if they can keep finding labyrinthine ways for everyone to solve each other's problems then I think I'll continue to enjoy it. Good to see Kiefer wasn't totally out of Jack Bauer mode either. We even got a 'DAMMIT'! Hopefully the show will develop some sort of plot continuity other than Martin and Jake's characters. Thanks for the terrific recap Tim!
Reply
Flag
I enjoyed it. Good acting, well written, interesting characters and some fantastic locations. However, I have to agree with almost everybody else and ask "where can it go from here?" How can they keep up this premise over a 20+ episode season? The biggest problem with it for me (as mentioned by Arch_Angel88) is the seeming lack of a baddie. The show needs to introduce an enemy of some kind to try and thwort the efforts of our good guys, otherwise what are they really fighting against? Fate does not make for a compelling villain.

Anyone else think that the ex-firefighter might join the father, son and social worker and use his millions to fund the team?
Reply
Flag
COMPLETELY agree with your review! I was drawn in instantly. I have a soft spot for anything involving children with Autism and Asperger's and even though I'm not a number type of person myself, I know the importance of numbers and patterns for kids suffering from it. It's the consistency of numbers. So I can ignore the cliche of the Autistic child with the special gift. I'm also one of those people who truly believes in the interconnectivity of us.all. Pay it forward. Six degrees of Separation. The Butterfly Effect. So the premise of this show had me intrigued from the get go.



I LOVED it.It actually made me think of feel good version of Crash. It took the viewer on an emotional rollercoaster and yes it was like a global hug. I seriously wanted to reach out and hug anyone within hugging distance...I wanted to cry too. And that says alot since I don't hug often and I haven't actually cried in years. Sure there were obviously moments that were too farfetched for words. And of course they took the number stuff to an extreme...the viewer didn't need to be bludgeoned over the head with the numbers that often...we're smart enough to get the gist of it w/o all of that, it had me feeling like I was watching Lost or something. And also if you aren't giving this show your undivided attention (because I know myself I'm a multitasker so I'm typically doing a million things at once when watching tv) you'll be lost, because of all the people, all the stories, the time you have to spend reading subtitles and the like... but it's worth it. I also can't help but wonder where it could go next with this type of premise without getting old or stale real quick, but Person Of Interest keeps me intrigued every week despite being relatively redundant on the surface so I hope this show does the same. I don't mind suspending belief for this show in order to watch it and feel all gooey inside, and for once I don't mind being emotionally manipulated by a show just because they can do it. So I was intrigued enough to watch Touch and even though I'm uncertain about the longevity it may have...I think I'll be willing to watch it to the end.
More+
Reply
Flag
I liked it a lot. I was captivated by the story, the way it was narrated, and the great characters. This could have been way more cheesy but everything was masterfully directed and the dialogs were natural.

I of course wondered how this would fit into a 20+ episodes season format (if that's what lies ahead). I guess we'll see.
Reply
Flag
Knowing at the end was about ALIENS kidnapping two kids and the earth was gone!

i guess the pilot of TOUCH and the structure of the show is way better.
Reply
Flag
I totally agree with your review Tim. The pilot episode of Touch was excellent and surprisingly, almost made me tear up just a bit. Almost! But I beat it down! Ha!

I just hope it doesn't get as messy as Heroes did in seasons 2 & 3. I kept thinking this is the 'Knowing' all over again, but that's not a detractor for me. I hope this show succeeds.
Reply
Flag
And this show reninded me more of 'Babel' than 'Knowing'...

Reply
Flag
But much better than 'Terra Nova'.
Reply
Flag
but i don't get what the people all around the world has to do with the boy. as a single episode, those other storylines and the boy's seem to have no connection at all, and bcause of that i really couldn't feel totally satisfied or intrigued after watching the whole pilot.
Reply
Flag
i loved this pilot
Reply
Flag
enjoyed it.
Reply
Flag
kid who writes numbers and predicts disasters, to prevent them

single father



the only things that's missing is nicolas cage. yup. it's a 100% Knowing rip-off.



i have an idea for Tim Kring's next show. how about a show called "Feel", but a Terminator ripoff. robots from the future and all.
Reply
Flag
It's a decent show. It's not based on "Knowing". The closest video to it would be one you likely never watched, called Pi. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0138704/



Only in this one the boy isn't going insane, he going autistic.
Reply
Flag
I really enjoyed the pilot, the whole theme of everyone being connected (the butterfly effect) has always really interested me. I just hope that the show doesn't get too 'case-of-the-week' and remembers that the emotions and relationships are what will make this show really compelling. Like when the son hugged Martin for the first time I was definitely tearing up, though, when it was apparent he just needed his dad's cell from his back-pocket that really ruined the moment...



As an after-thought, I'm sorta pissed I have to wait 2 months to watch the next episode. This early special preview stuff that shows are doing now can be really mean to the viewers and it seems sort of pointless. Maybe just don't announce the show and start promoting for it so early if you're afraid the viewers will just forget about it before the show airs.
Reply
Flag
Rip-off of the film "Knowing".
Reply
Flag
I have Touch in my DVR, I have not watch it, went to another tv info site and to my surprise Touch was FOX's highest rated drama debut in three years this is now three times I of heard this 1st with Human Target, 2nd maybe 10 days ago with Alcatraz and now with Touch is Fox worried gee they have Idol going right now granted the report maybe wrong and my memory either way imo it has Kiefer in it so it deserves a chance
Reply
Flag
at first i was like "so they're making Knowing into a tv show?" and didn't expect much.. but the last maybe 20 minutes were great and now i can't wait for the whole series
Reply
Flag
This would have been great if they left it as a single, standalone one-hour episode; it was dramatic and amusing. Unfortunately they are going to try to stretch it out into multiple episodes and multiple season and run it into the ground like so many other shows. :roll:

Reply
Flag
OMG... i would think you've been following my life for the past year.. i have a number system that is creating links between all of history, science, the cosmos, and Gods Word. i can translate numbers into spiritual meaning ... everything is interlinked EVERYTHING.. thank you for this show. it helps me realize I'm not the only one seeing all these things. we're seeing GOD and His glory.. and IT IS MAGNIFICIENT! we are All part of HIS GLORY because WE ARE HIS GLORY and HIS STORY... walking testimonies....^*
Reply
Flag
Kringe lost me with Heroes and how he was unable to take responsibility for his bad show runner duties.
Reply
Flag
I think it was really interesting, but there was so much going on, so many story lines at once, it was so hard to keep invested in all of them...
Reply
Flag
I loved the pilot. Great suspense good acting. My only reservation are the previews at the end which made the show look really predictable.
Reply
Flag
Is it just me or the numbers idea is the same one from the movie Knowing ? ... but still the pilot looks great and interesting.
Reply
Flag
Loved it! I'm a sucker for great acting and fun stories. Yes, my eyes teared up when the dad saw the pictures on the jumbo tron...and it felt great. The show was a happy one with hope, suspence and a credible plot, in complete opposite of the latest One Tree Hill (don't kill off the babies). 10-4 over and out.
Reply
Flag
Hey Tim, why not wait for atleast a few episodes and see how people feel about it? I mean its just the pilot and it was good. So, why not decide whether it lives up to its hype after actually giving it some time?
Reply
Flag
Jake was born on Oct. 26 (My birthday) so I was hooked from that moment on LOL JK The show has a lot of potential but then again so did HEROES.. We'll have to wait and see if Tim Kring really learned from his mistakes on HEROES. On another note It's great to see Jack back.. I mean Keifer but you know what I mean xP.
Reply
Flag
I thought the opening sequence was quite beautiful. Considering the recent posts about opening sequences, I'd say, this in is in my top5.

Apart from that, I really hope that Tim Kring has learned from his mistakes with Heroes, but we'll see soon enough
Reply
Flag
What I enjoyed about the first season of Heroes was that the "Heroes" where all scattered across the globe, but things out of their hand made one by one meet the others. This is pretty much that, only stand-alone. Which could be alright, at least for a while.
Reply
Flag
Then they all did nothing once they met.
Reply
Flag
I have not seen it yet. But from what I read in this review is that it has a few plot holes but keeps it in a straight line. So here is my prediction: This show will be trying to find it's own identity in the following episodes. And then it's going to fail miserably doing so, which is not a big deal because most Fox productions are born this way (Ha, see what I did there?) and eventually they will infuse the show with more action. So that Jack ehr Martin can go all out again and run around to save the world.
Reply
Flag
It's a...24...with a kid...so...Kiefer Sutherland why did you end 24

Reply
Flag
24 movie is coming. It's not over.
Reply
Flag
Pilot was good but I don't get how it was a tear jerker at all.
Reply
Flag
Me neither.

Maybe because they mentioned 9/11 .
Reply
Flag
Glad that Jack's back.

Good show, it's like watching the last half hour of Guy Richie movies (which are awesome).
Reply
Flag
You mean Keifer?
Reply
Flag
Yep - Keifer, son of Dorald Sutherland
Reply
Flag
Yes - Keifer, son of Donald Sutherland and grandson of Tommy Douglas.



Three amazing Canadians right there.
Reply
Flag
I think Tim, in some respects, you're being a bit critical. The kid could very well have just gone up the tower at the same time, 3:18, to try and draw attention to the message because us normal earthlings, and pop in particular, don't quite get the obvious (well, obvious to a genius).



Anyway, one thing I do agree with you on, Tim, is that while this was a great pilot and pulled some nice heart-strings, the emotional scoring was not at all even. I've seen shows like this premiere to great fanfare -- be it because they are extremely thrilling, funny, or like heart-warming and moving like this -- and they don't last beyond five episodes if they try to play like that every episode. The audience, know it or not, becomes dull to it because, as you said, the tears are always either coming out or close to the spillover point.



Great pilot, but the next few episodes need to be simpler, and less emotional or the show is doomed. It'll be a let down, but that let down will be rewarded by the episodes that DO become tear-jerkers, for they will be tear-jerkers as a result (I'll even let them borrow that as part of the 'interconnectedness' of the universe!).
More+
Reply
Flag
Staff
That's a great point about Jake going up at 3:18. There seems to be inconsistency with how Kring wants Jake to communicate. When it serves his story, Jake can communicate fairly easily (circling the date on the calendar), but when he wants to add mystery, he locks him up.
Reply
Flag
I actually loved the premiere.

I didn't think about what might happen next, I was so taken in by the beautiful images and direction and the different characters and events unfolding before me. For a pilot it was really beautiful and definitely held my attention. And so what if its not realistic enough or might fizzle out? If I get a season of what I just saw, with different characters, events and places, I'll be happy.



I'm really looking forward to March 19th. Did anyone else see the irony in the date? 1 day late.
Reply
Flag
But when Jack -- err... I mean Martin... looks at the clock at Grand Central Station after the scuffle it's 3:19 and he thought it was too late and he missed it. As it turns out, the timing was bang on. So, if that helps, redemption (and no, not the 24 crappy movie-before-new-season 'Redemption'). :)
Reply
Flag
A global hug for Mr. Tim Surette..



The pilot reminded me of other past shows but it still felt original,like you said its the interconnectivity. I guess i will be looking for a connection in every action/thing when it come to this show. Is that a bad thing, Not really. When done great, how everything comes together can be quite fascinating!



But if i was FOX (marketing), i would premiere the show on March 18!.. the rest of the episodes can be aired as planned, but 318!.. march 18 , someone should tap on that!!



The intrigue and suspense will get me there untill they lose their foot (plot-wise)..but i hope they dont!.
Reply
Flag
Staff
awww thanks!
Reply
Flag
Still.. I'll be waiting 5 seasons before I watch another Tim Kring's show.
Reply
Flag
Excellent premiere episode. I hope that every episode is executed perfectly like this one did.
Reply
Flag
If it is, you'll be bored stiff by episode 5. You can't pull on the heartstrings like that every time with no 'down time'. It'd be like if a show was completely evil with zero good, or you laughed the entire hour with no stopping. There needs to be some emotional scoring -- we need some dullness and anger in their, some fear, etc. The pilot was extremely successful in pulling us in, but it will be 'disappointing' for a bit afterwards in terms of those who expect all episodes to be like the pilot... but that's a GOOD thing.
Reply
Flag
Load More Comments

Like TV.com on Facebook