You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


Kiefer Sutherland's return to TV and Fox is less about the actor than about series creator Tim Kring, whose "Heroes" flamed brightly before creatively imploding.

Martin Bohm - Kiefer Sutherland
Jake Bohm - David Mazouz
Clea Hopkins - Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Kiefer Sutherland’s return to TV and Fox is less about the actor than about series creator Tim Kring, whose “Heroes” flamed brightly before creatively imploding. With “Touch,” the writer-producer again finds an intriguing concept, but bathes the warming premise in so much emotional manipulation it has to be watched entirely with the heart, not the head. Fox is showcasing the slick, extra-long pilot well in advance of a scheduled March return, hoping to seed its own connection with viewers. And why not? With a show this heavy-handed, a promotional light touch hardly seems appropriate.

Kring actually explored similar issues of global connectivity in improbable ways on “Heroes,” but he really goes the Full Monty here, with Sutherland as Martin Bohm, the set-upon single father of an autistic 10-year-old son, Jake (David Mazouz), who is heard only in the show’s introductory voiceover. Martin lost his wife on Sept. 11 (she was in one of the towers) and has been working odd jobs since giving up his career as a “highly paid reporter” (a creature not unlike Bigfoot, but never mind) to tend to his son, who because of his condition won’t allow dad or anyone else to touch him.

Jake’s confounding behavior — repeatedly escaping the school where Martin’s placed him in order to climb a tower, always at the exact same time — has Martin at wit’s end, and he’s in danger of having the kid removed from his custody by a concerned case worker (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, of the short-lived “Undercovers”).

Gradually, unexplainable things begin to happen, suggesting Jake possesses mental abilities that make him more than he might outwardly appear. Meanwhile, throughout the premiere (written by Kring and directed by Francis Lawrence) we’re treated to sequences involving other characters — a lottery winner, a teenager in Baghdad, young girls in Japan, a businessman who lost his cellphone — with indications that all these disparate storylines will somehow connect.

The idea of autistic kids cracking elaborate codes isn’t a new one, and was featured in the movie “Mercury Rising.” Here, though, Jake’s gift rises to paranormal levels.

The pilot is interesting and handsomely mounted, so far as it goes, but the payoff isn’t equal to the buildup. And while one can appreciate the desire to explicitly lay out the premise, having guest star Danny Glover appear as a sage at a vaguely defined “institute” who explains it all to Martin — calling his son “an evolutionary step,” capable of seeing beyond normal limits — is so convenient as to be almost risible.

As for where the series goes, the signs say “Touch” is ostensibly another permutation of “Touched by an Angel” (in this case, an autistic savant), with Martin sifting through Jake’s arcane clues to help those in need.

Sutherland certainly has a loyal following, and he’s fine depicting the dad’s frustration, agony and, eventually, hope. Still, it’s hard to fathom how Kring can perpetuate this mix, and whether there’s really enough meat to sustain a do-gooder procedural in the unlikely confines of Fox.

In the broadest terms, “Touch” has its “We Are the World” heart in the right place. But like another song says, we don’t need another “Heroes.”


Fox, Wed. Jan. 25, 9 p.m.

Production: Credits: Filmed in Los Angeles by Tailwind Prods. and Chernin Entertainment in association with 20th Century Fox Television. Executive Producers, Tim Kring, Carol Barbee, Peter Chernin, Katherine Pope, Kiefer Sutherland, Suzan Bymel, Francis Lawrence; producer, Dennis Hammer; director, Lawrence; writer, Kring.

Crew: Camera, Jo Willems; production designer, Cecele de Stefano; editor, Dody Dorn; music, Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman; casting, Jason LaPadura, Natalie Hart. 67 MIN.

Cast: Martin Bohm - Kiefer Sutherland
Jake Bohm - David Mazouz
Clea Hopkins - Gugu Mbatha-Raw
With: Danny Glover, Titus Welliver.

More TV

  • RENT: Top L-R to Bottom L-R:

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of Jan. 21, 2019: 'Rent: Live,' 'Celebrity Big Brother'

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, “Rent: Live” airs on Fox and “Celebrity Big Brother” returns for a second [...]

  • Black Monday: How Showtime Dusted Off

    'Black Monday': How Showtime Dusted Off An Old '80s Logo For Its New Comedy

    Cocaine’s a hell of a drug, but you’re not seeing things: That, indeed is Showtime’s old 1980s-era logo pasted all over marketing materials and promos for “Black Monday,” a tongue-in-cheek tale of the excesses exhibited by Wall Street traders in the lead-up to the stock market crash of 1987. The logo, which hasn’t been in [...]

  • 'Russian Doll' Review

    TV Review: 'Russian Doll'

    This is a particularly tricky review to write, but not because the merits of “Russian Doll” are at all ambiguous. On the contrary, the show is so striking and smart that I made a note to include it on my favorite TV shows of 2019 immediately after blowing through the season — which is saying [...]

  • Black Earth Rising Review

    TV Review: 'Black Earth Rising'

    Bringing to bear a talented cast on a story of real geopolitical significance, “Black Earth Rising,” Netflix’s drama about the long-tail aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, would seem to have had the potential to be one of 2019’s early television successes. Which makes its falling short all the more painful and pronounced. The show, previously [...]

  • DIRTY JOHN -- "This Young Woman

    'Dirty John' Finale Hits New Ratings Highs in Live+3

    The Season 1 finale of “Dirty John” on Bravo continued the scripted show’s ratings hot streak in Live+3. The finale, which aired on Jan. 13, grew to 3.3 million viewers in delayed viewing with 1.3 million of those falling in the key adults 18-49 demographic. That is up 10% in total viewers and 15% in [...]

  • Sky and Warner Bros. Alums Join

    Sky and Warner Bros. Alums Join ITV-Backed Production Company Possessed

    Former Sky One and Sky Living programming chief Adam MacDonald has joined Possessed, and will be the ITV-owned production banner’s first chair. The U.K.-based unscripted producer has also hired Lesley Davies, former head of international production at Warner Bros. She will head up production. The double hires follow a recommission  of gameshow “5 Gold Rings,” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content