Ken Tucker
March 22, 2012 AT 12:00 PM EDT

I’m afraid that the mawkish elements, barely in check in the pilot episode of Touch that Fox aired in January, overtook the new series in its first regular episode Thursday night. I’m all for sincerity over irony, generosity over snark, but there’s something so damply sentimental about Touch that it smothers a lot of its good qualities.

Kiefer Sutherland starred as Martin Bohm, a single-dad New Yorker who’s raising his 11-year-old son, Jake (David Mazouz). Jake, who narrated some of the episode, actually hasn’t spoken since he was born, and cannot stand to be touched. He spends a lot of time working out elaborate series of numbers. Jake’s opening musings were portentous, written to be uttered as though they revealed great truths, but “my job is to keep track of those numbers” and discover “whose lives need a touch” are not sentiments to fill a viewer with great anticipation.

The hour was constructed around a number of disparate subplots — about a lost dog, a son bearing an urn with his father’s ashes, a pawnshop owner, and a flight attendant — that we knew would eventually become interrelated. (I thought the flight attendant’s line, “I have to see a man about a dog” was there to be a tired punchline, but Touch is so lacking in even an attempt at humor that this, too, was played completely straight.)

Jake’s numbers flew from his mind onto paper and from there into the episode’s plot — “5296” figured prominently on a baseball bat — and, as in the pilot, Jake runs off from Martin to pursue his silent theories, his mystical matchmaking. Alas, Sutherland is left to trail him rather doggy-like himself, pleading weakly, “Just give me a sign.” When he’s not imploring Jake, he’s subject to the gnomic musings of Danny Glover, who scolds Martin for expecting things to make sense. “Sense?” said Glover derisively. “Is that what you’re looking for?” Glover’s character claimed that Jake sees the “cosmic pain that has to be healed,” and that Jake “sees the pain as numbers.”

This mumbo-jumbo gets tiresome quickly. I’ve seen the interviews in which creator Tim Kring (Heroes) says there’s going to be a mythology developed in which Jake will play a role in a wider story, but this does not fill me with confidence, either. I’m terrible at puzzles and figuring out plot twists, but I saw how every subplot was going to lock into place this evening; it became tedious waiting for all of it to happen. Touch has a good heart, but it needs a sharper intelligence and a few moments when Jake can see numbers as humor, as well.

Were you more caught up in Touch than I was?

Twitter: @kentucker

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