Without this boy our number is up
A mute maths genius holds the key to humanity's salvation in the heart-stopping new Kiefer Sutherland series that’s been dubbed '24 with a brain'
22:31 GMT, 16 March 2012
As 24’s muscular hero Jack Bauer, Kiefer Sutherland saved the world repeatedly. But in his new show Touch, it’s brains rather than brawn that ultimately save the day. Sutherland may still be on a mission to rescue strangers in peril, but whereas in 24 Bauer’s concerns were generally of the exploding bomb variety, as Martin Bohm in Touch, his worries are more personal.
After his wife dies in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Bohm is left alone to raise his 11-year-old son Jake (David Mazouz). Mute since birth and hating to be touched, even by his father, Jake spends his time writing down endless lists of numbers, to the bafflement of all around him.
It’s only when patterns start to emerge among the figures – connecting seemingly random people around the world through their phone numbers, car registration plates and street numbers – that Bohm realises his son can predict the future and he has to figure out the significance of the patterns to prevent a potential disaster taking place.
Kiefer with David Mazouz, who plays his son in the heart-stopping new series Touch
The overriding premise of Touch is that we are all somehow linked, with Sutherland’s character entrusted with discovering those elusive connections.
Created by Tim Kring, the man behind Heroes (another show featuring individuals with super-human abilities), Touch is Sutherland’s first foray into TV since 24 ended its eight-season run two years ago. ‘I don’t think I was totally ready to go back to television as I was enjoying taking advantage of other opportunities,’ he admits. ‘But I knew I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this fantastic role.’
Many viewers, of course, will be looking for similarities between Sutherland’s portrayals of Jack Bauer and Martin Bohm, but while Bauer was largely aloof and detached, Bohm yearns for a closeness and connection to his own son. ‘The real driving force for Bohm is simply to communicate with Jake,’ says Sutherland. ‘He wants to have as normal a relationship as he possibly can with his son, which I think every parent can relate to.
Hoping for another hit: Kiefer as Jack Bauer with his 24 co-stars
‘The one parallel I can actually bring from the two characters is that Jack Bauer was asked to save the day and there were always going to be casualties – it was never going to be a perfect win. And similarly, Martin Bohm is never going to have an idyllic relationship with his son.’
The idea for Touch came from an ancient Chinese fable about a red thread that connects us all.
‘In our society we’ve somehow broken it,’ says Sutherland. ‘In Touch, Jake takes me on a journey to try and fix it.’
Jake – the wordless child who can’t bear to be touched and yet who touches everyone with his special gift – wasn’t the easiest role to cast, since it relied on the young actor’s ability to emote without the use of dialogue. The enigmatic-looking David Mazouz (who had previously appeared in US drama series Criminal Minds) was the first to audition, and Sutherland recalls, ‘I remember thinking, “This is going to be fantastic. If every youngster we see is going to be like this, we’re going to find an amazing kid.” Then I met about five more and I was thinking, “Actually, that first child was still pretty good.” After 20 or so, I said, “Will you just hire the first one” He was unbelievably special – it’s a real gift to be able to convey what he’s thinking with so little body language.’
It remains to be seen whether Touch can emulate the huge success of 24, and Sutherland himself is all too aware of the pitfalls. ‘It certainly is a daunting thing having 24 be such an incredible success,’ he says. ‘It’s nice to have that in your pocket… but Touch was something I just couldn’t say no to.’
WHO'S WHO IN TOUCH…
Martin Bohm (Kiefer Sutherland)
A widowed former journalist who takes a job as a baggage handler at
New York's JFK airport so he can spend more time with his son Jake. He
struggles to bond with him until Jake's special powers are unearthed.
Jake Bohm (David Mazouz)
Misdiagnosed with autism, Jake is an
isolated yet gifted boy who uses numbers to find patterns between
seemingly random people around the world. Though he cant speak, we hear his thoughts through voice-overs.
Professor Arthur Teller (Danny Glover)
A brilliant yet eccentric child specialist who recognises Jake's gifts and encourages Bohm to believe in him. 'Your son sees everything the past, the present, the future. He sees how
it's all connected.'
Clea Hopkins (Gugu Mbatha-Raw)
The family's social worker. When Jake risks his life by climbing telephone masts, Clea has to assess whether
he should be moved for his own safety. She soon realises he has special abilities.
Touch, Tuesday, 8pm, Sky1.