REVIEW: Touch (FOX – Thursday, 9:00 p.m.)

We are all interconnected. Our lives are invisibly tied to those whose destinies touch ours.

This is the hopeful premise of the new drama TOUCH from creator and writer Tim Kring (“Heroes,” “Crossing Jordan”) and executive producers Peter Chernin (NEW GIRL, TERRA NOVA) and Katherine Pope (NEW GIRL, TERRA NOVA).

Blending science, spirituality and emotion, the series will follow seemingly unrelated people all over the world whose lives affect each other in ways seen and unseen, known and unknown. At the story’s center is MARTIN BOHM (Kiefer Sutherland), a widower and single father, haunted by an inability to connect to his emotionally challenged 11-year-old son, JAKE (David Mazouz). Caring, intelligent and thoughtful, Martin has tried everything to reach his son. But Jake never speaks, shows little emotion, and never allows himself to be touched by anyone, including Martin. Jake is obsessed with numbers—writing long strings of them in his ever-present notebooks—and with discarded cell phones.

Social worker CLEA HOPKINS (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) believes that Jake’s needs are too serious for Martin to handle. She sees a man whose life has become dominated by a child he can no longer control. She believes that it’s time for the state to intervene. So Jake is placed in foster care, despite Martin’s desperate objections.

But everything changes after Martin meets ARTHUR TELLER (Danny Glover), a professor and an expert on children who possess special gifts when it comes to numbers. Martin learns that Jake possesses an extraordinary gift—the ability to perceive the seemingly hidden patterns that connect every life on the planet. While Martin wants nothing more than to communicate directly with his son, Jake connects to his father through numbers, not words. Martin realizes that it’s his job to decipher these numbers and recognize their meaning. As he puts the pieces together, he will help people across the world connect as their lives intersect according to the patterns Jake has foreseen.

Martin’s quest to connect with his son will shape humanity’s destiny. – FOX

100 out of 100

For our money, other than ABC’s The River, the Tim Kring/Kiefer Sutherland vehicle Touch was the most anticipated series of the 2011 – 2012 season.  Then, after we saw the pilot event in January, we were incredibly tempted to do what we’re about to do right now but we wanted to wait to see a couple more episodes to maintain at least credibility.  So, after watching four episodes of this series we can now say without any hesitation:

Touch is the best new show of the 2011 – 2012 season… period… end of discussion.

There… we said it and there is no way around it.  As much as we love Homeland, it’s better than even  Homeland.

What we love about this show is… well… just about everything.  Tim Kring has done an absolutely fantastic job of taking an established and complicated Science Fiction subject and making it accessible to all audiences and we’re still trying to wrap our heads around how he’s doing it because it’s the most brilliant job of fooling a non-genre audience into getting involved with a cerebral narrative like we haven’t seen since Lost.

This subject matter, blending theoretical science and the metaphysical, in and of itself is so far beyond even the imagination of most viewers that if not for Tim Kring and Kiefer Sutherland being attached to it, it is unlikely that anyone would even have picked it up. But FOX isn’t stupid and Kevin Reilly recognizes that those two names bring an accessibility to genre like few have been able to do in the last decade.

So, how is Touch finding broad appeal while staying true to its SciFi roots?  Simply put, as the premise states, it’s about making connections.  We have often noted that the key to any show’s success (particularly in drama) is the ability of the characters to relate to the audience.  Touch takes a little bit of a different approach to this.  Since there are really only three or four regular characters that appear on the series from week-to-week, Kring and the producers seem far less concerned about having the characters relate to their audience through character background development than they do through the situational and circumstantial development of every episode.

Now, of course we immediately grow an affinity for Martin and Jake and are sympathetic to them as their back-stories unfold, but what’s magnificent is that there is a new supporting cast of characters every week and we immediately become as fond of them and what they’re going through as we do the Bohms.  The circumstances that all of these characters go through in each episode, regardless of race, creed, color or national origin are all circumstances that every one in the audience can relate to and if you can’t, the person sitting next to you can.  So as the characters on-screen become more interconnected, we, the audience become more connected to them and each other.

There really is a little bit of something for everyone in this show.  For fans of Jack Bauer, Sutherland’s Martin Bohm is kind of like a kinder, gentler version of his character from 24 (sorry, Kiefer… every role you ever get going forward will be compared to the one your most famous for).  He’s a man who’s suffered a lot of pain (losing his wife on 9/11, struggling to take care of his special needs son, giving up his career as a reporter and taking menial jobs just so he could find the time for him) but he’s fanatically dedicated to his little boy, Jake, and from the beginning of the series, we see the gentle side of Martin that Jake, who’s never spoken a word, is able to elicit from his father and that’s what drives Martin every episode to make sense of the numbers.  As a parent, it is very easy to make a connection with the relationship between Martin and Jake and it’s very easy to understand the unquestioning love Martin has for his little boy, despite how frustrating he may be.

Speaking of 24, there’s certainly no shortage of action and suspense every episode and even though we do realistically expect that crisis-[X] is going to work out in the end, the payoff is still satisfying because not only do they give us a great ride along the way, but they manage to slip in a little twist at the end of every episode that ties everything together and completes the circle and it’s based on some innocuous comment that you smack yourself in the head for not noticing when it was mentioned earlier in the episode and it turns out to be the most important connection of all.

Touch also has the distinction of being one of the few shows on television that as intense as it is, you can feel comfortable watching it with your kids regardless of their age. There is very little violence on this show, there’s no sex, and the language never goes above the PG level. Sure, there are big-issue themes in this series that a five year-old isn’t going to understand (however, as has happened in our house already, those themes might just inspire curiosity from little kids and open up a dialogue), but you don’t have to worry about having to quickly change the channel because the kids heard or saw something that you’d rather they hadn’t until they were in their mid-20’s.  And that’s the thing with Touch; it’s so good all the way around that it doesn’t have to resort to crutches to tell a compelling yarn from week-to-week.

This a story about the human condition and our very existence.  Why are we here?  What is our destiny? The point that we’ve taken from the show is that all people have the propensity for doing good in this world and because of that we are all connected and it’s only when we see the connections that we can be liberated from the cynical chains of ego, greed, envy, anger and hatred that serve to bind us.  This show is about good people doing good things, not for their own personal gain, but because it’s the right thing to do.  It’s called piety for piety’s sake, i.e., doing the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because you expect to be rewarded for it.  Socrates spoke at length about it… so did Gene Roddenberry. The message is poignant and uplifting and it’s done in such a heart-warming and endearing way that it’s nearly impossible not to get misty-eyed by the end of each episode.

Normally we’d just immediately direct you to FOX’s website to watch full episodes, but FOX has changed things up and is making viewers sign into their cable or satellite provider’s website to have full-access so you can do that by going here and following the directions or you can just go to Hulu and watch the SD versions with no hassle.

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