I guess it’s to be expected when one is watching “Touch,” the Kiefer Sutherland series about numbers that contain hidden clues that purport to show how the lives of total strangers will soon intersect.
You’re on the lookout for coincidences or hidden meanings when watching this show, and that was the case Thursday night when I thought I’d stumbled on one such “coincidence” concerning a very unlikely subject: Merv Griffin. Sound strange? Well, that’s because it is strange.
Here’s what happened on the show, which aired on Fox Thursday night (March 29) at 9/8c (and which you can watch, in its entirety, below):
First, in case you’re unfamiliar with this show, it’s about this widower, a former journalist (Sutherland), whose 11-year-old “special-needs” son (played by David Mazouz) is afflicted (or “gifted”) with a form of autism that allows him to predict future events with numbers that seem to pop into his head at random. (This latter detail is the one that I don’t really understand: How do these particular numbers occur to this kid? I have no idea.)
And so, based on these numbers, Dad goes in search of the people who are evidently going to be involved in some kind of series of events so that he can perhaps prevent a tragedy from happening. I know, it’s complicated — please consult previous “Touch” blog post here.
On this particular episode, Dad came into contact with a group of people involved in a class-action lawsuit against an investment company portrayed as evil (moves the firm deliberately made cost these plaintiffs their life savings).
Well, the name of this firm was meaningless, at least to me (it was “Morton Starling Financial”). But when Kiefer encountered a mysterious homeless man who was ranting about fighting a dragon (no, not like in “Game of Thrones”), this dragon turned out to be a “dragon” in the Morton Starling corporate logo.
The thing was, though: This logo was not really a dragon at all; instead, it was a mythical creature known as a “griffin.” And the griffin in this logo was nearly identical to the one the late Merv Griffin used to represent his various companies (Griffin died in 2007 at age 82).
But here’s the other thing: One of the figures in this class-action suit was this homeless man’s late father (at least that’s who I think he was) whose name, given to him by the writers of this episode, was Roger King.
So I thought: Roger King? I knew a Roger King. With his brother, Robert, they were the kingpins of King World, the syndicators of Merv Griffin’s most famous TV shows, “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune.” Together with Merv, the King brothers made millions upon millions of dollars (on top of all that, the King brothers also distributed “The Oprah Winfrey Show”).
Roger King in particular was a towering figure in the TV business — a colorful guy who unfortunately died, also in 2007. He was 63. I barely knew him, but many years ago, he imparted a lesson to me that I have never forgotten: The difference between “game shows” and “quiz shows.”
In a phone interview with him, I made the mistake of referring to his shows as “game” shows and he was quick to correct me. “Adam,” he said, “we don’t do game shows, we do quiz shows.” He was very adamant about this point: The difference – at least to him – was that quiz shows required intelligence that wasn’t entirely necessary for game shows. On quiz shows, he said, contestants had to actually answer questions, as in “Jeopardy,” or solve puzzles, as in “Wheel of Fortune.” That’s what made them “quizzes,” and not merely “games.” Or so he said.
So when I heard his name on “Touch,” then saw this “griffin” logo, I wondered: What’s this new Fox show’s connection to Merv Griffin and Roger King? Did one of the writers or producers know these two? And if so, was this writer or producer seeking to make some kind of hidden point about Griffin or King by including these veiled references to them in this episode of “Touch”?
Well, naturally I was so excited by what I thought I had uncovered that I asked a Fox press rep about all this, and you know what he told me? He told me there’s nothing to these coincidental references at all. Nada. Zilch. He even asked a “Touch” producer and the producer wasn’t familiar with Roger King.
What’s the upshot? It’s just that this show, “Touch,” can play games with one’s head. It is a mysterious, complicated series, one that I keep returning to, even though I don’t understand much of it.
The show’s a puzzle that would have delighted Merv Griffin, a man who loved puzzles, very much.