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TV Tuesday: Designated Survivor

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 16:30
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When the political debates superseded some of our favorite TV shows recently, leaving us all caught up with nothing to watch, my husband and I decided to try a new show, Designated Survivor, starring Kiefer Sutherland. We binge -watched the first three episodes, and it quickly became a new favorite. We have seen five episodes now, and we are hooked. Apparently, we aren't the only ones – several recent articles indicate it is one of the most popular new shows on TV.

Kiefer Sutherland stars as the secretary of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), a mild-mannered and apolitical guy who quietly does his job. In the first episode, the U.S. Capitol is bombed during the President's State of the Union Address, killing everyone in the line of succession (well down the list) plus almost all of Congress. Apparently, the U.S. has a real-life policy of selecting a Designated Survivor – a member of the Cabinet – to be absent from an event in which all others in the line of succession are together, just in case of such a catastrophe. So, the TV show is based on this possible real-life scenario, in which Sutherland's character, Tom Kirkman, was watching the State of the Union address from a secure location away from the Capitol Building (the HUD Secretary has been the designated survivor before in real life).

So, when this bombing occurs and almost the entire leadership of our country is killed, Kirkman, dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, is suddenly sworn in as President. As in real life since 2005, Congress also has a Designated Survivor, so there is just one member of Congress left, Senator Kimble Hookstraten, played by Virginia Madsen. Kirkman must jump into the role of President immediately, with no warning or preparation, and start making huge decisions with little advice or direction. He seems to be a really good guy – honest and ethical – but he has no experience with this kind of leadership, especially in his new role as Commander in Chief.

The Secret Service quickly picks up Kirkman's family – his two kids and his wife, Alex, played by Natascha McElhone – and whisks them to their new home at the White House. Meanwhile, the show also follows the FBI investigation of the bombing, with Maggie Q in the role of Hannah, one of the investigators, who suspects the case may not be as straightforward as it first appears. Kal Penn also stars in the show (and is excellent) as Seth Wright, the president's speechwriter.

We are loving this show so far. It is fast-paced and full of action and suspense, with the threat of additional attacks imminent and chaos reigning across the country, but it is also thoughtful and intricate. Considering these terrifying what-if questions adds to the drama and suspense. Kirkman – as is true for any President – often finds himself in difficult, sometimes impossible situations, expected to make a quick decision when he has no experience to guide him. Of course, Sutherland is wonderful in this role. The acting is great, the writing is top-notch, and the premise is original and captivating. We can't wait for the next episode!

Designated Survivor is currently airing on ABC Wednesdays at 10 pm eastern time. You can catch up on episodes On Demand (as we have done), free on the ABC website, or on Amazon for $1.99 an episode (link below).

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