More Details on Kiefer Sutherland's "Autistic Super-Kid" Show from the Creator of Heroes

Illustration for article titled More Details on Kiefer Sutherland's "Autistic Super-Kid" Show from the Creator of Heroes

Now that we know Kiefer Sutherland's going to be starring in Tim Kring's new show, Touch, people are starting to wonder what it's about. And the first details are starting to leak out.

Advertisement

Spoilers below...

Hollywood Insider had the first scoop on the pilot and first few episodes of Touch, and we were able to confirm their info independently.

So in Touch, Sutherland plays Martin Bohm, who was an award-winning journalist at the New York Times, uncovering the big cases of corruption and saving the world. Until Martin lost his job because he mislaid his objectivity on a big story. Now he works as a baggage handler instead of as a journalist.

Martin and his estranged wife had an appointment to see a divorce attorney on Sept. 11, 2001 — and the implication is that his wife died in the terrorist attacks.

Martin's left caring for his autistic son Jake on his own. And Jake never talks, but has an amazing way with numbers — to the point where he's writing down lottery numbers before they are announced. He keeps changing all the clocks in the house to 318 and climbing a cell-phone tower at exactly 3:18 in the afternoon a few days in a row. (This turns out to be a clue to something that helps Martin save a bunch of kids.)

A social worker, the plucky but inexperienced Clea Hopkins, wants to take Jake away from Martin and put him in a residential care facility. But Clea starts to see that there's something unusual about Jake when he writes down Clea's mom's cell phone number a moment before Clea's mom calls her. Clea finally becomes a kind of ally to Martin and Jake, and possibly a third member of their oddball family.

Advertisement

Meanwhile, Martin also seeks some answers from an expert he saw on the Charlie Rose show, Boris Podoltsky — who now looks dissheveled and lives in squalor, because nobody would publish his crackpot theories. Boris guesses right away that Martin is there because his son is climbing cell-phone towers, and he tells Martin that young Jake is a "conduit for energy" who can see the "electromagnetic energy and connections" that make up the world. Jake has already discovered the Fibonacci sequence on his own, without any mathematical schooling. And this means that Jake can see... everything. Says Boris:

Imagine the unspeakable beauty of the universe he sees. No wonder he doesn't talk.

Advertisement

And if Martin can learn to understand what his son sees, "then you'll be at the center of the universe with him."

So it looks like every episode will involve Jake writing down some numbers or pointing out some universal pattern that reveals some terrible impending tragedy that his dad (and maybe Clea) have to avert. It doesn't sound all that promising, to be honest — but Sutherland coudl make it work. You never know.

Advertisement

Top image via Getty Images. [Hollywood Insider]

DISCUSSION

You know, as a father of children with autism, I'm honestly not sure what to feel about this yet. On the one hand, autism awareness is a great cause as more people need to learn about the disorder. I like when shows or movies come around with characters affected by autism, showing people what the disability is like. If I had a dime for every parent who gave me the "can't you control your kid?" look, or said it was our fault since we had him vaccinated (I really wanted to punch that lady, but I just ended the conversation and walked away...), I'd be able to buy the rights to "Firefly" for Nathon Fillion. As more people learn about the autism spectrum and understand that my kid is flapping his hands and reciting TV show dialog to himself is because there's too much going on around him and it's his way of calming himself before his head explodes, he might have a chance for a better and more understanding world out there before him.

But, on the other hand, it feels like shows like this are simply objectifying the disorder and playing into the stereotype. My kid is pretty damn smart, better at some things than I was at his age, but he's not "Rain Man", and he can't tell the future by flipping through the Bible and cracking the code that was hidden there by the Illuminati describing the end of the world. I like the way some shows, like "Parenthood" have handled autism and its effects on friends and family, but it kind of reminds me of how "St. Elsewhere" was, after many many seasons on the air, just in the imagination of a non-verbal autistic child with a snow globe.

Maybe I'm just being too sensitive about it, as I'm sure when my daughter is old enough and becomes a cheerleader I won't get mad when someone makes a crack about "Save the Cheerleader" or something. I think writers just needs to be careful when creating characters with disabilities and not playing into public perception or stereotypes.

/rant :)