WHY YES, THE U.S.-based global media may be at the cusp of a cultural turning point. Check out Fox's TV drama, "Touch," the first post-modern, cross-border, cross-cultural, cross-over-to-the-global-mainstream show on a major network. Launched last month in 100 markets worldwide, the visionary show is a new emerging model, a transnational and transmedia venture that could be the norm a decade from now. Short-term ratings trump all, so "Touch" -- years ahead of its time --may not last long. But the model will thrive in various incarnations.
So much TV content is shallow and brain-dead. But there's heart and soul, plus big corporate dollars, behind "Touch." There are global characters and interweaving storylines by writer Melinda Hsu Taylor. (Shades of "Babel" by filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.) There's a polyglot cast that reflects geographies of the mind and the real mosaic-like world. (Kiefer Sutherland, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Mazouz, Danny Glover, and others.) There's the fusion of science, spirituality and mysticism. (Echoes of Fritjof Capra's The Tao of Physics and other New Age manifestos, plus holograms and Jungian synchronicity just for fun.)
The global creatives behind "Touch" are building a template for the brave new media world. The show's American creator, Tim Kring, earned a religion degree in college and spawned the ground-breaking "Heroes." Executive producer Peter Chernin ("Terra Nova"), an English lit major at UC Berkeley, now is growing an international media enterprise. Director Francis Lawrence ("Water for Elephants," "I Am Legend") was born in Austria, and filmed music videos and commercials with global mega-stars and multinationals.
Sutherland plays a widower and former tabloid journalist who desperately tries to connect with his silent, emotionally-challenged son. The boy has the rare gift of seeing hidden mathematical patterns that link everyone on the planet, and Sutherland must find the meaning of those patterns to save lives. From Fox's Web site: "We are all interconnected. Our lives are invisibly tied to those whose destinies touch ours . . . Blending science, spirituality and emotion, the series will follow seemingly unrelated people all over the world whose lives affect each other in ways seen and unseen, known and unknown."
Playing 'Touch" is like playing "Six Degrees of Separation" with Kevin Bacon. How do you connect to the show? Once, I spotted Danny Glover at an India consulate, standing in line for a visa, then coincidentally ran into him a month later at a business banquet in Mumbai. I interviewed Glover, and he spoke of "re-imagining" business with India and the world. I thought that this cerebral actor and humanitarian deserves a greater pop culture legacy than "Lethal Weapon" and "Predator 2." And then the guy suddenly pops up in "Touch," as a professor and sage-like guide to the universe.
Call it seven billion points of convergence. "Touch" is a brainy, imaginative, even uplifting show in the nascent land of global TV.
- Variety, "Fox's 'Touch' to get global TV push: Coordinated launch set for more than 100 markets" by Andrew Wallenstein.
- AdAge, "Fox's 'Touch' Inks Historic Global Deal With Unilever" by Brian Steinberg.
- NYTimes, "Fox Show Will Start Worldwide" by Brian Stelter.
- FastCompany, " 'Heroes' Creator Tiim Kring Looks to the Future" by Austin Carr.
- AllThingsD video interview, "Peter Chernin on Hollywood, Asia Growth and Not Yahoo."
- TechNewsWorld, "The Holographic Universe: Is Our 3-D World Just an Illusion?" by Katherine Noyes.
- PricewaterhouseCoopers, "Golden age of the digitally empowered consumer: A new collaborative entertainment & media industry emerges from the global recession."
(Illustration, above) Promotional poster for "Touch," the new TV supernatural drama starring Kiefer Sutherland on News Corporation's Fox network. Poster courtesy of Fox on Wikipedia. (Disclosure: This blog has no financial ties or other interests with the News Corporation or Fox.)