My Take On…DESIGNATED SURVIVOR on ABC
24 was my favorite show in recent years. By association or through my love for 24, I fell for Kiefer Sutherland – the acting, the gravelly whisper-speaking, the action-adventure that was Jack Bauer. So my excitement for DESIGNATED SURVIVOR, the straight-to-series drama that starts tonight at 10/9c on ABC, was high from the get, and after getting a chance to preview the pilot, I’m so happy to say that I’m all in for my new favorite drama of the Fall.
Here, Kiefer plays Tom Kirkman, a mild-mannered congressman low on the totem pole, the opposite of the take no-prisoners Jack Bauer of old. Kirkman is set aside as the Designated Survivor, the one cabinet member who is kept secluded during cabinet meetings in case of something catastrophic. When catastrophe does indeed strike, Kirkman becomes the President of the United States, against all odds.
The pilot moves quickly to introduce us to the characters – Tom, his wife (Natascha McElhone), their kids, the White House staff (Adan Canto, who I loved on THE FOLLOWING; Kal Penn), Tom’s Chief of Staff (Italia Ricci), lead FBI agent investigating the attack (Maggie Q), and Tom’s security team (LaMonica Garrett) – as they work through the shock, horror, and politics of what it means to have this low-level family man sworn in to office, while wearing a sweatshirt and vomiting in the bathroom.
Kiefer Sutherland is here with the same gravelly whisper-speak that I love, but this time, he’s playing it from a completely different angle. Immediately, we’re shown how different his most iconic role is from this one – Jack took action and thought about it later; Kirkman is a thinker, a scholar, a family man who just wants to make pancakes for his brood, and who, spoiler alert, was only recently told he might be out of a job. More soft spoken than usual, he just wants to tuck his daughter in at night. The reservation he plays in Tom is something exciting and there is a spark of chemistry, or a bond, between him and Kal Penn’s speechwriter Seth – their relationship will be fun to explore. Plus, Kiefer and McElhone are beautiful and adorable together, and Maggie Q is every bit the bad ass we’ve come to love.
As I watched, I found myself less interested in who exactly executed the attack and more interested in how the characters and relationships are going to shift and change as a direct result. There’s also an interesting story line they planted for Tom’s son Leo (Tanner Buchanan) that was just enough of a breadcrumb trail that I’m cautiously optimistic about where it goes. DVR is set and ready – series pass, all the way!
Let us know what you think about DESIGNATED SURVIVOR after it premieres at 10/9c on ABC.