February 9, 2013



TOUCH:  Friday 9PM on FOX

Tim Kring’s Heroes is a famous example of a hit series imploding in its second season, but his TOUCH–not nearly as big a success in its first version–is, at least, more intriguing after a Season 2 reboot.

Touch started as a sort of New Age “Touched By An Autistic”.  Every week, mute Jake Bohm (David Mazouz) would become fixated on a new, seemingly random series of numbers, and when his widowed ex-reporter father Martin (Kiefer Sutherland) set on their trail, it would turn out that somehow, mystically, those numbers were the key to unlocking the bliss of an assortment of previously unrelated characters located across the globe.  A few people were deeply moved by this multicultural Up With People approach to drama, but mostly it was tiresome, overly sentimental and not infrequently very silly.

Later in the season, the storylines which have taken over as the format of Season 2 emerged.  Jake was one of a tiny group touched, presumably by God, with these special abilities (at one point it was suggested that he was one of the 36 righteous people whom some Hasidics believe justify the human race), and as such was being pursued by your basic evil, all-powerful multinational corporation, here called Aster Corps.  Martin had to protect Jake from Aster, and it developed that there was another visionary, a 14-year old girl named Amelia (Saxon Sharbino) obsessed with patterns in the tides, who had gone missing.

Season 2, which began tonight with back-to-back episodes (Hour 1 written by Kring and directed by Nelson McCormick; Hour 2 written by Executive Producer Carol Barbee and directed by Michael Waxman), has become a more conventionally serialized quest story, all about defeating Aster and the search for Amelia.  The locale has been moved from New York to Los Angeles, and several new regulars have been added to the cast, most notably Amelia’s mother Lucy (Maria Bello), who joins Martin and Jake on the hunt.  Bello isn’t just a terrific, grounded actress, but she finally gives Sutherland someone to play against, making his character far more human and accessible.  There’s also genius Calvin Norburg (Lukas Haas) who, in the course of the premiere, quits his job at Aster, and who is working on a “God algorithm” that in the right hands can end world hunger and stop global warming (that’s not a joke, it’s what he says in the episode), and can basically bring on Terminator 2:  Judgment Day (again, pretty much what the man says) in the wrong hands.  Also, over in Europe–for now, anyway– is a religious psycho assassin (Said Taghmaoui) who believes these visionaries are challenging God with their brilliance, and is therefore systematically slaughtering them with an ornamental knife he wears as a necklace.

All of this is a definite improvement over last season (where every episode featured a giggling trio of Japanese teens who were miraculously involved in whatever intercontinental magic was taking place), but Touch‘s storytelling is still sloppy and diffuse.  Because so many characters have inexplicable special powers, just about everything in the plot moves forward via coincidence and/or psychic ability, and so far, Aster is nothing more than a stock vessel for greed and evil.  Also, while the tangle of weekly storylines has been pared down, the narrative still turns on connections between characters that take a full episode to play out–so in the 2nd hour of the season premiere, the grandfather of a girl Jake bumped into at an amusement park turned out to be the boyfriend of the librarian who just retired, for mysterious reasons, to take care of hidden Amelia, a fact we discovered at the very end of the hour.  In an era when shows like Homeland, Scandal and even Downton Abbey burn through plot at a spectacular rate, Touch dawdles over every single far-fetched link in its plotting chain.

FOX’s strategy for Touch was hard to understand last Spring, and still is.  The series was never particularly well-rated, and it’s an expensive show, what with Kring’s and Sutherland’s participation.  Renewing it but sticking it on low-rated Friday night, where it may very well do little better than Fringe, the poster child for low ratings, seems like an odd investment.  Despite the show’s moderate improvement in quality, it seems unlikely that a broad new audience will flock to the new Touch.  On the other hand, it seemed impossible just a few days ago that Community‘s season premiere would almost double the rating for Smash, so as Jake would tell you (if he only spoke), logic has its limits.

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."