Continuing in their attempt to completely revamp their entire network, Disney-owned ABC Network will debut their latest drama, Designated Survivor which will make it’s premiere tonight at 10/9c on the network. Designated Survivor stars Keifer Sutherland (24, Touch), a US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who is thrown into chaos when a devastating terrorist attack unexpectedly sweeps the Washington Capitol, killing all of the U.S. congress along with the President. With the country in shambles, Tom Kirkman is assigned as the United State’s “designated survivor”, which thrusts him into the next living person in line for the role of the President of the United States.
Designated Survivor has the most intriguing of the new dramas ABC has to offer this fall and it is easily one of the best too. Designated Survivor packs no shortage of great drama and gripping tension. There’s a big cheesy generic sense within the premise of Designated Survivor, but yet the show finds a way to present it in a way that seems fresh and engaging. It gives us characters that are rounded and worth caring about, and the story doesn’t slog throughout it’s episode, as Tom Kirkman struggles in being abruptly thrust into the role of Mr. President in a world deep in chaos.
Most of the show’s dramatic tension begins right out of the gate with a powerful opening scene, which later sets the stage for the story that unfolds throughout. Cutting back between the dramatic event that opens the series and flashbacks to Kirkman’s life as far back as fifteen hours before the event, we’re given a glimpse into the core character’s events that led up to devastating attack and how this impacts the lives of the characters within the show. Designated Survivor isn’t perfect, but the series packs in dramatic tension and great storytelling to ABC’s lineup that the other shows have yet to capture.
Although the role is so removed from the previous roles he is well known for, Keifer Sutherland shines as the lead character in the series. He packs a lot into the character and making him a well rounded and diverse character, and expresses the drastic emotion that his character endures throughout the episode. Tom Kirkman is certainly no Jack Bauer, but the role shows Sutherland’s ability to take on diverse character roles and truly make them shine.
There’s still some work to be done until Designated Survivor can make it’s landmark in political TV history, but Designated Survivor has set a stage for something truly special. My only hope is that the cast and crew can keep up the quality that they set and only improve on it, rather than setting the stage for something that promises to be spectacular, but only to fail at recapturing that uniqueness in the series’ following episodes.
I’m intrigued to see how a plot like this can survive on a weekly basis on network television, and clearly there’s a lot of work to be done if the showrunners can keep up this intrigue and storytelling on a regular basis. Time will tell if Designated Survivor will manage to survive on primetime TV, but it’s definitely an experiment in television that we will be watching closely in the upcoming weeks.