March 23, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and production of episodes for the regular season:  a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover in the off-season) give plenty of notes, both helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads.  The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting and even story.  Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular episodes of this year’s new series as well.
Previously… on TOUCH:  As single dads go, Martin Boum (Kiefer Sutherland) has it particularly tough.  He makes ends meet working as a baggage handler at Kennedy Airport in NY, while he tries to raise Jake (David Mazouz), who is a seemingly autistic child–he doesn’t speak, can’t bear to be touched, is obsessed with numbers–with a twist.  Jake has the ability to sense the “road map” of the world through seemingly random numbers, and when Martin follows those numbers to their destinations, he and Jake can save the hopeless and generally do good.  A social worker (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is sympathetic and understands that there’s something special about Jake, but still insists on his getting proper care, while a mysterious scientist (Danny Glover) lets Martin know he hasn’t yet seen the extent of Jake’s powers.

Episode 2:  So far, at least, Touch isn’t particularly serialized, so tonight’s first regular episode, written by series creator Tim Kring and directed by Ian Toynton, is self-contained.  In the course of the hour, the phone number Jake gives Martin leads to a cancer-ridden pawnbroker, a immigrant Russian loanshark, a famous home run baseball and the down-on-his-luck peanut seller who caught it, an escaped dog, a stewardess who isn’t on good terms with her father, an Indian man who wants to sprinkle his dad’s ashes on a baseball stadium field, and a teenage Russian magician with no friends at school.  By the time the hour is over, all of those people have been somehow healed through the way Jake has engineered them to be brought together.

There’s a certain irony to the fact that FOX rescheduled Touch to air against Person of Interest on CBS, because they have remarkably similar premises:  in both, a seemingly meaningless number is provided by an inexplicable source (Jake in Touch, Michael Emerson’s invention in Person of Interest), and each episode consists of solving the mystery of just what that person’s story is.  Touch, though, lards its tales with phony mysticism and ridiculous plot turns–in tonight’s episode, we were expected to believe that an entire school in Moscow is terrified of befriending the young magician because his father beats people up as a loanshark in NY, and that the peanut vendor’s need for $10K led him to suddenly decide to become–and instantly get hired as–a hitman.  It’s all very silly.

Another limitatation is that none of the regular characters get to be characters at all (comparatively speaking, the Person of Interest protagonists might as well be on Mad Men).  Mbutha-Raw’s social worker and Glover’s doctor are bit players at this point, Jake only speaks in pseudo-profound voiceover (“there are 8 billion people in the world…”), and Sutherland grimaces and looks intense in his Bauer-ish way.

There are people with an inexhaustible craving for this kind of We’re-All-Connected! hokum and glib sentimentality, and Touch may do it for them.  Tonight concluded with the revelation that the stewardess was the suicidal pawnbroker’s long-lost daughter, who happened to be chasing the dog across the bridge from which Sutherland had just prevented dad from jumping, and left stewardess and pawnbroker smiling at each other in his terminal hospital room–so judge for yourself  For the rest of us, Smash is self-serious inanity and more than a little excruciating.
ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel
PILOT + 1:  Touch That Dial

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."