Touch - Kiefer Sutherland and Executive Producer Tim Kring
Kiefer Sutherland and Executive Producer Tim Kring attend a screening of the new Fox series on December 8, 2011 in Los Angeles, California © 2011 Fox Broadcasting

Tim Kring, the creator and producer of the TV series Heroes, which chronicled the lives of ordinary people who discovered they had extraordinary abilities, has returned to television with Touch, a similar concept that spotlights a child with a gift to predict the future.

Jake (David Mazouz) is the 11-year-old autistic, mute, son of Martin Bohm (Kiefer Sutherland), a widower who is struggling to make ends meet. His frustration at being unable to communicate with Jake turns abruptly around when he discovers that Jake has a remarkable gift to discern the hidden patterns that connect all life on earth.

Tim Kring spoke with TV critics about his new show and the philosophy behind it.

Is each episode going to have a complete story or will the series have a arc?

Touch - David Mazouz and Kiefer Sutherland
Martin (Kiefer Sutherland) tries to understand his son Jake (David Mazouz) © 2011 Fox Broadcasting

Each week we’ll have enough of a standalone feeling because you will get a beginning, middle and an end from these stories. The Martin and Jake characters will be following kind of an ‘A’ story that each week will be different story, some bread-crumb trail that Jake’s character is leading his father on.

Then centered around that will be these satellite stories that all interconnect. Each week will be a different set of characters and a different slice of life story that we will see.

Was Jake’s character ever one that you contemplated using on Heroes? He seems to have a Hero-like quality in this.

We probably had some characters that had various abilities that would be in that category, but it’s not a superpower, it’s more of a mystical or spiritual idea.

In the philosophical world, there’s an idea of a big consciousness shift coming. Do you follow that, and does the show reflect any of your world views?

Touch - Kiefer Sutherland and Executive Producer Tim Kring
Kiefer Sutherland and Executive Producer Tim Kring answer questions after a screening of the new Fox series © 2011 Fox Broadcasting

I’ve been very interested in this theme of interconnectivity for a long time, and the last couple of projects that I’ve worked on, Heroes and The Conspiracy For Good, both had these themes.

This is really a chance to continue, I guess, what you would call social-benefit storytelling, the idea of trying to use archetypal narrative to create and promote a positive energy in the world, and so I guess, in that sense, it does align.

Are there specific teachings you’re reading?

No, nothing specific, just a general sense of the emerging story of our time is that we are more connected to one another than we ever thought or knew. And I think it’s being borne out by the whole social networking world that we live in.

It feels like we need to figure that out in order to solve the bigger problems that we all face.

Do you believe in coincidence, or is everything somehow connected?

This show will take many theories about what’s going on. Some will be spiritual and some will be scientific, and some may have even a slightly nefarious kind of connection to it.

In the mythology of this as it relates to autism, are you saying Jake is representative of a new form of evolution?

Touch - Kiefer Sutherland with Danny Glover
Martin (Kiefer Sutherland) discusses Jake's case with Arthur Teller (Danny Glover) © 2011 Fox Broadcasting

The show does not attempt to talk about autism. It’s not a show about autism. In fact, just to give you a little background on why the character is the way he is, I sort of backed into what Jake’s character was by the idea of a character who had this gift to see how we were all connected.

Then I started to take away various attributes of that character and think wouldn’t it be interesting if that character who has this very profound gift was someone who was the most disenfranchised person on the planet?

He’s small. He’s unable to communicate, unable to even make his point known. And so I think, by backing into some of those ideas, we ended up with a child who, by the outside world, would be labeled or diagnosed as autistic.

In the pilot, we have Danny Glover’s character, Arthur Teller, who is a professor, who has done research on these people, who thinks Jake has this gift. He literally states right up front that for a select few, autism is a misdiagnosis.

As storytellers, we want to reserve the right to say that there is something perhaps supernatural or spiritual that allows us to tell the stories that we want to tell without having to be grounded in such reality.

It strikes me that where 24 anticipated 9/11, this story very much is a response to 9/11.

Touch - Kiefer Sutherland
Kiefer Sutherland answers questions after the screening © 2011 Fox Broadcasting

The idea of 9/11 was really just as a backdrop to Martin’s character and the fact that they live in New York, and he’s now a single parent with a child that’s very complicated. It was really just another layer of complication.

I think if there was a consciousness shift in the country after 9/11, it was this awareness that what happens ‘there’ does affect us.

That people from 10,000 miles away would fly planes into our building was as a result of this globally connected world. And so, in a sense, maybe 9/11 does act as a metaphor for that consciousness.

Is the American audience ready for a positive show like this?

We have talked about that, that it can’t always be tied up in a nice, neat bow. There has to be times when there’s a ‘you missed it by this much’ kind of thing or when doing something positive results in something negative happening in somebody else’s story. There is sometimes a bittersweet ending to these stories.

What’s interesting is the audience in this show has an unique perspective. It’s a privileged perspective because we get to hear Jake’s internal voice when nobody else does. We also get this omniscient view of how things are playing out around the world, where Martin’s character doesn’t.

He’s very much a leap of faith each week, going into the world, not knowing how these ripple effects are going to actually connect to other people. I think it gives the audience an unique perspective, having a different perspective than the main character.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.