In the new Fox drama Touch, Kiefer Sutherland plays a role that seems a far cry from his eight-season turn as terrorist-fighting agent Jack Bauer on 24. Sutherland's new character is a "sensitive and compassionate, endlessly patient family man," the father of a mute, severely autistic boy whose affinity for scribbling random numbers and mathematical formulas is revealed to be a superhuman ability to identify and manipulate the patterns of the universe that connect us all... or something. Sutherland, then, is tasked with trying to reach his distant son — and to prevent the world from abusing his strange talent. The show premieres Wednesday after American Idol, but, in an unusual scheduling move, won't air its second episode until March. Does playing the "anti-Jack Bauer" suit Sutherland?
Sutherland pulls it off well: 24 fans are so used to watching Sutherland "grimace and scowl, whisper and scream, fight and scrape, and shoot and interrogate," that it's almost jarring to see him "sit down. Or smile. Or laugh. Or sleep," says Sarah Rodman at The Boston Globe. It's a treat to see Sutherland "save the world in quieter, smaller increments — and occasionally with a smile."
"Sutherland lightens up with softer Touch"
He'll never shake Jack Bauer: As convincing as he is in his new role, it's impossible to divorce Sutherland from Bauer, says Alan Sepinwall at HitFix. During a ticking-clock sequence in this first episode, Sutherland's voice began to intensify, "and I half expected him to shoot somebody in the leg and demand to know where the bomb is." Even when "he's playing an average guy who doesn't carry a gun, some echoes of his most iconic role still come through."
"Review: Kiefer Sutherland and son look for patterns in Fox's Touch"
Both Sutherland and the show are unconvincing: Even playing a supposedly tender dad, Sutherland screams into cellphones, rushes against the clock, and frustratedly bellows, "DAMMIT!" says James Poniewozik at TIME. How are we supposed to forget about Jack Bauer? And the rest of the show, unfortunately, is overly earnest and self-satisfied — it's like "Touched By a Magical Autistic Kid," not a progressive, genre-bending new series. Both Sutherland and Touch disappoint.
"TV tonight: Touch"