Despite Hollywood’s reputation for flogging a dead horse, Touch is a surprisingly decent twist on the well-worn premise of ordinary people made extraordinary by special abilities.
Autistic 12-year-old Jake Bohm (David Mazouz) has a talent for spotting numbers. The sequences he comes up with aren’t just a good bet for the lottery, though. According to Danny Glover’s bumbling nutty professor, they add up to a cosmic pain that Jake is trying to heal.
If this makes Touch sound more like New Age nonsense than something akin to creator Tim Kring’s trendsetting Heroes, the first few episodes won’t dispel that impression.
There is precious little science behind the fiction, which focuses less on super powers and more on Jake’s wordless ability to connect ordinary people in ways that resolve their personal problems. For the first half of the season Touch doesn’t even have a villain to speak of: the principal source of jeopardy is New York social worker Clea Hopkins (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who threatens to take Jake away from his father.
Luckily Jake’s dad is Kiefer Sutherland, who has made a virtue out playing family men in unusual circumstances. He does that to good effect again here as a single parent struggling to keep his son at home. Sutherland’s performance grounds the show in a convincing sense of normality and gives it a compelling emotional core.
Events start to follow a more familiar genre formula halfway through the season when a search for a missing boy coincides with the discovery that Jake is not the first person to come up with a particular set of numbers. There’s even a hint of foul play when a main character bites the dust.
From then on Touch increasingly feel less like Ghost Whisperer via Stephen Hawking and more like a lite version of Fringe. Admittedly the suspense once again centres on a mega-corporation with dubious intentions. Even so, there is enough heart and substance in the otherwise well-constructed scripts to compensate for the clichés.