Can Kiefer Sutherland regain his "Touch"?
The man who saved the world as Jack Bauer returns in a reboot of his latest Fox drama, "Touch." A two-hour debut airs Friday at 8 p.m. ET on Fox and Global.
"Touch" stars Sutherland as Martin Bohm, a former reporter whose wife was killed in the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center. He's struggling to raise their special needs son Jake (David Mazouz), who never speaks and won't be touched.
Throughout the first season, Bohm comes to realize that Jake is communicating through a complicated series of numbers and patterns. What's more, this language seems to be plugged into a larger, world-wide system. A professor who is later killed (played by Danny Glover), tells Bohm that his son is one of the few who can see "the pain of the universe" through the numbers.
Math not being every viewer's strong suit, the numbers for "Touch" didn't quite add up in its first season. Sutherland, interviewed last summer in Los Angeles, says Season Two is a whole new equation.
"It went from a story of a father and a son desperately trying to figure out a way to communicate with each other to a father who has almost been killed and has to protect his son from people that are willing to kill to get him. That's a pretty dynamic shift."
Executive producer Tim Kring, interviewed at the same Fox event, agrees. Kring says Bohm goes from "a guy who is quintessential everyman to someone who literally goes to a pawn shop and buys a gun with the intention of having to use it — and that's over 12 episodes. That character really has become someone willing to take extraordinary action."
The Fox promotion department, as one would expect, goes even further, stating in a release that the new season, "becomes a heart-pounding thrill ride, filled with suspense, murder, heroism and global consequences…"
In other words, "24 2.0."
Added to the intrigue is Lukas Haas as Calvin Norburg, the mad genius of Aster Corps, a group trying to take custody of Jake away from his father in order to exploit the child's supernatural abilities. Said Taghmaoui plays a religious zealot who factors into the international mix.
The cast addition Sutherland seemed most excited about last summer was Maria Bello. She plays Lucy, a single mom out to reunite with her own special-needs daughter who shares Jake’s number-connecting abilities.
"She's phenomenal," said Sutherland of Bello, last seen in the short-lived U.S. remake of "Prime Suspect." Sutherland saw Bello's character as a "lifeboat" for Bohn and Jake, an ally who would also help the audience navigate through what was admittedly a dense story.
There is word, however, that Bello has left "Touch" and won't be back if the series extends beyond this season.
Critics generally praised "Touch" and singled out 46-year-old Sutherland for his sensitive portrayal of a devoted father. The folks at Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Theatricals seem to agree, awarding the Golden Globe Award-winner their annual Man of the Year Award.
The ratings, however, were only so-so, with a series renewal in doubt right up until Fox made their 2012-13 announcements last May.
In television, as in "Touch," it's all about the numbers. Sutherland knows that, but seemed unfazed about the so-so ratings start.
"I knew it was going to be hard," he said, "and the irony is I think 'Touch' was probably more successful than '24' was in its first season."
Premiering the same week as the 9-11 attacks, "24" and its tale of anti-terrorism seemed too soon at first. Eventually, however, America embraced Jack Bauer and stuck with him for eight seasons.
The business of television has changed dramatically in the two-and-a-half years since "24" went off the air. Sutherland and Fox never had to contend with "binge" viewing on platforms such as Netflix and marathons of series like "Breaking Bad." Does he sense viewers are looking for something different today?
"They're looking for something good," he says. "It's that simple. It's quality.
"There are so many amazing shows out there," he adds. "There are 500 channels. It is an ocean of product and opportunity out there for a viewer. They're looking for quality. That's the only way to survive. I think if you try and do something different for the sake of being different, I think you're going to be chasing that ball for a long time."
Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.
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