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Not Touched by new drama

24 PROVED to be Kiefer Sutherland's lucky number.

As hard-ass agent Jack Bauer, Sutherland got to pound around our screens for eight series saving the world over and over again, one action-packed day at a time.

Numbers figure heavily in Sutherland's new series Touch, but his character couldn't be more different from Bauer.

He's Martin Bohm, a widower whose stockbroker wife died on 9/11, leaving him to look after their 11-year-old son Jake (David Mazouz). Martin is tormented by his inability to make an emotional connection with the boy.

Jake, you see, has never spoken a word to anyone in his life -- although he does speak to us in the voiceover that opens and closes the episode -- and can't stand to be touched, not even by his dad.

He's completely consumed with scribbling down what appear to be random numbers and has a habit of wandering off and climbing to the top of a mobile phone mast.

Jake also likes collecting mobile phones, which Martin brings home by the boxload from his job as a baggage handler at New York's JFK airport.

As one character points out, Martin used to be "a highly-paid reporter with the Herald" (can't say I remember him myself!) but he's had to make do with whatever work he can find as he moves Jake from one special needs school to another.

No school can handle Jake, of course, and Martin is buckling under the strain, so a pretty young social worker called Clea (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) wants to test the boy for a week to see if he'd be better off in an institution. The possibility that Jake might be autistic is raised but quickly discarded. "For all I know," says Martin, "he doesn't speak because he has nothing to say."

But when all Jake's mobile phones start ringing simultaneously, displaying the same number, Martin begins to feel something deep and mysterious is happening. He trawls the internet for information and tracks down an eccentric scientist called, appropriately, Arthur Teller and played by Danny Glover in a dressing gown.

Teller tells Martin the world and everyone in it is connected by numbers, electrical impulses and patterns. Jake is one of the lucky ones, in that he can see all the connections: "Your son sees everything -- the past, the present, the future."

Teller burbles on about "Quantum entanglements", "the red thread of fate", "the cosmic wheel of humanity" and whatnot, and how the numbers Jake scribbles down are "a road map".

"Your purpose is to follow it for him," he tells Martin. "It's your fate, your destiny."

When the number 318 starts cropping up everywhere -- on school buses, in phone numbers, on a $10 bill, on railway timetables and clocks (3.18 is even the time Jake climbs the mobile tower) -- Martin sees a pattern emerging. So, at the same time, does Clea, and the two of them have to race against time to stop SOMETHING BAD HAPPENING.

I don't want to completely spoil the ending, in case you've recorded it for later, but let's just say that all the connections click neatly together in the shamelessly sentimental final scenes.

Touch is pure hokum, full of quasi-religious, mystical twaddle that in the end doesn't add up to a whole lot. It's created by Tim Kring, the man behind Heroes, which started brilliantly but then hurled itself off a high-concept cliff and drowned in a sea of its own pretentiousness.

This series is constructed along similarly expensive and ambitious lines. The connections in the first episode, triggered by a lost mobile phone that travels the globe and ends up as a timer strapped to a suicide bomber, spanned characters in New York, London, Tokyo, Baghdad and even Dublin, where Simon Delaney popped up in a few scenes.

The Americans liked this pilot episode so much that Fox TV immediately commissioned a series of 13. I hope that doesn't turn out to be Sutherland's unlucky number.

touch HHIIICLOSE BOND: Kiefer reaches out to his on-screen son