PASADENA, Calif. — For eight seasons, Kiefer Sutherland played television's baddest asset — Jack Bauer — on "24." He returns to the network this week in "Touch" (8 p.m. MST on Fox-Ch. 13), playing the father of an 11-year-old boy who has the ability to see patterns in nature, time and people.

The role is far more cerebral than his "24" work.

Eight years of being the central focus of an action TV series can take its toll. Sutherland tried to get as far away from Bauer as possible by appearing in "That Championship Season" on Broadway.

"I really wanted to set some time apart from this kind of amazing experience that I had with '24' and try some different things," Sutherland says.

He had no plans to return to TV when he got the "Touch" script.

"The character was so vastly different, and the tone of the piece was so vastly different, that that was part of its appeal. I had to reread it a second time to make sure that all of the emotional components that I was reacting to so strongly were actually integral to me as opposed to this perspective that I was trying to create or navigate from '24.' I realized that if they would have me, this was certainly something I wanted to do."

Just to be clear, it wasn't Jack Bauer that Sutherland was trying to escape. It was the long hours and action scenes — where his character was tortured and beaten more than a hallway rug — that he wanted to leave behind.

The only thing that will get twisted and turned while doing "Touch" is Sutherland's brain.

Series creator Tim Kring is very interested in interconnectivity, a concept that suggests everything in life is inextricably connected. That concept was used in both of his last works, "Heroes" and "The Conspiracy For Good."

With "Touch," Kring is doing what he calls social benefit storytelling.

"The idea of trying to use archetypal narrative to create and promote a positive energy in the world," Kring says. "We are more connected to one another than we ever thought or knew. And I think it's being borne out by the whole social networking world that we live in, and it feels like we are we need to figure that out in order to solve the bigger problems that we all face."

It's certainly the task at hand for Sutherland's character. He's a father who has become frustrated by the inability to connect with his son. It's not until he realizes the pages of mathematical equations the youngster has been writing have a meaning.

This means Sutherland's character has save the world on a weekly basis. He sees the role differently.

"The real driving force for my character is to really just simply communicate with his son. He wants to have as normal a relationship as he possibly can with his son, which I think every parent can relate to," Sutherland says. "The rest of the stuff is really for the audience to kind of experience in how one thing can interconnect or affect another."

He does point to one similarity between "24" and "Touch."

"The one parallel that I can actually bring from the two characters is that Jack Bauer was asked to save the day, and there were always going to be casualties. So it was never going to be a perfect win. And Martin Bohm, my character in 'Touch,' is never going to have the perfect, idyllic relationship with his son, and so there is a circumstance, a kind of weight on both characters where they just will never completely win."

© The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)

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