Friday, January 27, 2012

Ruled By Randomness

Touch is the new Fox drama from Tim Kring, who created HeroesHeroes started out fun before falling apart, but Touch isn't fun right from the start.

Kiefer Sutherland stars as a Martin Bohm, whose wife died in 9/11 and whose son Jacob is troubled--he doesn't talk, doesn't like to be touched, but is fascinated by numbers.  He seems autistic, but according to Professor DeWitt, played by Danny Glover, Jacob is just the next evolutionary step who sees so far beyond us that he needn't waste him time with language.  Maybe, but since everyone else is still talking, it'd sure be a lot easier if he'd tell his father what he wants, rather than scribble a lot of numbers that are supposed to mean something.

That's the sci-fi concept that I guess Kring sold the show on.  The boy sees connection we can't. (Troubled people with amazing powers, especially in math, are pretty commonplace in movies and TV shows, actually.) But the pilot was ridiculous.  The big number was 318, and it just kept showing up everywhere.  We had enough with mystical number in Lost, but at least there Jacob was arguably behind it.  But here, we've just got to trust that the universe offers all these connections that we're blind to, even though such numerical coincidences (318 is an address, a bus number, a time etc.), as far as I can tell, aren't meaningful in real life.

There are many more connections in the show.  Sutherland was connected in a bunch of different ways to the fireman played by Titus Welliver (MIB in Lost)--Bohm runs into him early on (where the son and Titus both know the winning lottery number, which ties into some 9/11 numerology), as a fireman he was the guy who failed to save Bohm's wife and needs to call him now that he's won the lottery, and the two are meant to fight over a rare pay phone at 3:18. But that's just the beginning--before we're done, there are a bunch of lovely coincidences with characters in Iraq, Ireland and Japan.  By the end of the pilot, even Gugu Mbatha-Raw as lovely social worker Clea Hopkins, who temporarily took the boy away until he gives out her mother's phone number using popcorn, recognizes how amazing the child is.

So that's what we have to look forward to each week? The boy will write some numbers down which Kiefer et al will have to interpret, and if they do it right a bunch of amazing coincidences will occur?  Doesn't sound like fun to me.  It's okay in a story if someone or something is ultimately revealed pulling all the strings, but drama still needs some room to breathe. A show where what would otherwise be random is actually nothing but a series of predictable and convenient coincidences takes all the fun (and free will) out of everything.  And having it be a kid who knows everything, yet can only cryptically tell us information to make sure the world runs smoothly (not unlike the machine in Person Of Importance, but at least that's mostly offstage and allows the other characters to determine the action) is too dreary to contemplate.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The premise of this show is almost as unbelievable as Kiefer Sutherland's last series

9:03 AM, January 27, 2012  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

I haven't seen the pilot of Touch yet, but I'm forewarned - thanks.

person of Interest, by the way, is doing a good job of explaining piece by piece why there are such convenient limits on the "machine." Essentially, we are learning just how powerful the machine is, and how easily it could be misused. We will soon know why Finch limps today (not in flash-backs) and what happened to his original partner.

I really appreciate it when screenwriters recognize they are asking the audience to accept a lot of unlikely premises, and attempt to explain them.

2:46 PM, January 27, 2012  

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