May 11, 2013



If there was a way to turn its premise into a TV series worth watching, TOUCH didn’t find it.  The show tried very different approaches in its two seasons, but FOX’s cancellation notice this week closed the door on any further tries.

In its first season, Touch was built around the feel-good idea that when near-silent, seemingly autustic Jake Bohm (David Mazouz) would communicate a cryptic number to his father, ex-journalist Martin (Kiefer Sutherland), the number would miraculously connect to people all over the world, reuniting families, solving crimes and otherwise changing their lives.  It was sort of original (although The Machine on Person of Interest does pretty well with cryptic numbers too), but ponderous and silly.  Over the course of the season, the menacing Aster Corps, with its suspicious interest in Jake, was introduced, and so was a religious angle, as Jake came to the attention of Hasidic scholar Avram (Bodhi Elfman), who identified Jake as one of the 36 “righteous ones,” who have the power to save the world.  Eventually, Martin became aware of another similarly gifted child named Amelia (Saxon Sharbino), who was missing.

It’s still not clear just why Touch was renewed for a second season, since its ratings were somewhere between disappointing and awful in Season 1, but when the show returned, it had obviously received the message that its tone needed to change.  Touch 2.0 was darker and more conventional.  The multicultural magic of the numbers was gone, and instead, while Martin and Jake helped Amelia’s mother Lucy (Maria Bello), try to find her daughter (the action was also based in Los Angeles rather than New York this time around), a maniac ex-priest (Said Taghmaoui) was ritually slaughtering The 36.  Aster became the usual bloodthirsty multi-national corporate villain on Jake’s trail, putting The 36 into comas to pull the paranormal numbers out of their unconscious minds, so it could create an algorithm capable of predicting the future with 100% accuracy, thus enabling Aster to–you guessed it–control the world.

Although Touch wasn’t officially canceled until this week, the writing was on the wall as soon as it made its season debut to even more dismal ratings than last year’s, and series creator Tim Kring’s script for the last episode (directed by Nelson McCormick), while keeping the door open for potential further adventures, operated as a series finale, routing Aster with finality.  (The crazy ex-priest had died some time ago.)  It also offered a fair account of why the show had never worked.  Sutherland couldn’t stop playing a slightly downscale Jack Bauer, constantly screaming at people and beating information out of them, and the show had unwisely killed off its only effective human element, Maria Bello, midway through the season.  The plotting was sloppy and–even by TV genre standards–unconvincing.  In the finale, Avram spent almost the entire episode sitting like a scolded schoolboy in a Rebbe’s study (Ron Rifkin, schlepped in for no apparent reason), while Jake and Amelia were pursued and tortured, and Martin, despite being known as Aster’s deadly enemy throughout the entire season, was able to stroll onto their boat where the kids were being held captive.  Another villain turned out conveniently to have been wearing a wire during all his conversations with Aster, providing evidence of every bad thing the company had ever done.

Not many people will miss Touch, one of the more maladroit network series of recent years.  It gets some points for trying to be a bit offbeat, especially in Season 1, but in the end that’s about all that can be said for it.


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."