Can Kiefer Sutherland get over Jack Bauer?

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Spoilers abound here, so if you want to see the first episode of Touch and haven't done so yet, check out another post instead!

On Wednesday I caught the pilot episode of Tim Kring's (of Heroes fame) new series, Touch. It stars Kiefer Sutherland as Martin Bohm, a man who lost his wife in the September 11, 2011, terrorist attacks. He has since struggled to connect with his son, Jacob, who doesn't speak and has some behavioral issues. Eventually Martin discovers that Jacob has repeatedly been referencing a series of numbers, one of which leads him to a former fireman who tried but failed to save his wife from the World Trade Center. He learns that his son has the ability to find connections between people by way of certain patterns that appear in nature (like the Fibonacci sequence).

I found the concept interesting, but for a series whose premise is a guy trying to connect with his kid, I had an awfully hard time connecting with Sutherland in a more emotional role. I initially thought that it's because I watched 24 for so long and that I still remembered Sutherland's portrayal of Jack Bauer very well. For those who didn't watch 24, Jack Bauer was an unwavering patriot whose lack of empathy and "do whatever it takes" attitude helped him be very successful at stopping terrorist attacks but drove away everybody he cared about, including his daughter. So I thought perhaps my past experience with a Kiefer Sutherland character was making it hard to see him in anything other than that kind of role.

Yet while I was watching the episode it seemed to me that Sutherland himself had trouble getting into the character, almost as if he was also affected by playing Bauer for so long. All throughout the episode I was expecting Martin to say "there isn't enough time!" in that loud Jack Bauer voice. It probably didn't help that at the end of the episode he tried to take down what he thought was a bad guy, albeit not quite like a CTU agent. I guess what I'm trying to say is that there was a lot of 24 in Sutherland's acting style in this episode, and the plot kind of enabled it.

I think, in the end, it may just take a few episodes for both me and Sutherland to get used to the new role. The pilot heavily hinted that there would be plenty of action scenes during the rest of the series, so perhaps Sutherland will be able to find a happy medium that allows him to play the kind of role he used to, while developing a different acting style for the non-action scenes.

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