A lot of people, including me, were prepared to laugh this one off the screen. Kiefer Sutherland plays the father of a seemingly autistic son who can see patterns in everything, with Danny Glover playing Magical Black Man With Answers. Created by Tim (Heroes) Kring, there is still quite a bit to worry about, like where it goes from here, but this pilot wasn’t too bad. My main problem is that I have a hard time accepting the premise that a kid who gets some numbers in his head can somehow affect the lives of half a dozen people around the world. Basically, one has to get over the problematic cliche that autistic (or autistic-seeming) people have some sort of magical powers. Jake, the kid, doesn’t like to be touched and doesn’t talk, which are both autistic symptoms, though not exclusive to autism, and it is not only sort of cheap that the creators use these symptoms, but it also creates a kind of short-term dramatic arc, since by the end of the pilot, Jake is still silent but hugs his dad.
The cast is quite good, with Titus Welliver as a surly Lotto ticket purchaser who turns out to have a profound link to Kiefer, a 9/11 widower, and basically Jake causes them to interact at least once (they interact twice, but in retrospect one should probably assume Jake engineered the first meeting unless we’re just going to accept it as a massive coincidence), which makes for a kind of redemption for Welliver and maybe a little closure for Sutherland. There’s another story about an Iraqi teen trying to replace his parent’s oven, an Indian customer service rep and part-time singer, and a grieving father that also comes together in a highly coincidental but entertaining way, though it’s not clear if Jake had anything to do with it.
It’s well-filmed, and in fact if you turned off the sound a lot of it looks like a really long phone company commercial about people connecting all over the world. It’s kind of odd that this comes out on the heels of Extremely Loud + Incredibly Close, two highly contrived pieces of uplift that trade on still simmering 9/11 anguish. Kiefer’s fine, the kid is okay (why does every special kid in a movie or show have shaggy hair? Most kids I know use product and get frequent haircuts), and there is a lot that seems hokey and manipulative, but I would give it at least one more episode.