New Show Review: ABC’s Designated Survivor

Katie Jonckheer

For those who are particularly interested in politics and drama, ABC’s “Designated Survivor” might be a solid option for a new show to binge-watch. It aired recently, on September 21, and has 22 episodes planned. Five have aired so far.

“Designated Survivor” follows U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Tom Kirkman, portrayed by Kiefer Sutherland. The show brings to light an actual system put in place by the government so that if something were to happen during a large gathering of important governmental players, and everyone present was killed, there would be someone still alive to assume the position of President. According to a The Wrap article titled, How the ‘Designated Survivor’ Works in Real Life, “The designated survivor… will be chosen from those in the line of succession, often based on who has the least tangible reason to attend the event.”

The show begins with Sutherland’s character watching the State of the Union address from another building, safeguarded and comfortable. Suddenly, the TV screens go blank. He looks towards the capitol and sees the aftermath of an explosion, and then almost immediately is sworn in as President of the United States.

Following this pilot episode, so far, there has been drama within the family, some hidden secrets, a found survivor, and the discovery of who bombed the Capitol, among other revelations. The show promises to offer more shocking plot twists as it continues.

The show has gotten generally good ratings, with a 84 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and several articles with positive reviews. A USA Today article titled, Review: Kiefer Sutherland’s ‘Designated Survivor’ may beat TV survival odds explains the struggle of “new fall offerings” to garner viewership, but expertly describes “Survivor” as, “You have a family story, built around Kirkman’s wife Alex (Natascha McElhone) and their children, none of whom is prepared for the public spotlight. And you have a thriller centered on an agent (Maggie Q) charged with discovering who’s behind the attack and stopping any more of them.”  

Survivor particularly has appealed to me due to its historical and real-life significance and I have enjoyed watching it unfold. I am curious to see how it deals with the important, sometimes difficult-to-talk about issues that its plot centers around. I think it is a new and creative idea for a show, and it has a lot of potential.