Designated Survivor (TV series)

A review by Nalini Haynes

Tom Kirman (Keifer Sutherland) is no longer FBI agent Jack Bower. (Thank you! I was sick of the poor writing in that series by the end of season one, and that was BEFORE I started reviewing!) Now he’s a hesitant bureaucrat, Secretary for Housing and Urban Development, and designated survivor during the Inaugural Address pending his sacking.

Then someone bombs Congress.

Kirman is now the president.

Harris Cochrane (Kevin McNally) is a straight white redneck junior Joint Chief. He wants to run the country and undermines Kirkman whenever possible. He’s aggressive and arrogant.

Kirman has a wife, Alex (Natascha McElhone), and two kids, Leo (Tanner Buchanan) and Penny (Mckenna Grace). Penny is your dose of cute while Leo sells drugs at night clubs. Cue heartwarming family scenes and impending drama.

The Republicans also have a designated survivor, Kimble Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen), who starts out being supportive but fast descends into political in-fighting. I was disappointed because I’d hoped for intelligent storytelling and, maybe, for her to be appointed Vice President. Balancing their competing ideologies with the good of the country in a time of war would have been brilliant!

The writers didn’t think intelligence was warranted with a sensational splodey beginning.

Nor did the writers seem to think that research — even as little as watching West Wing for tips — was necessary. When a brownout affects the White House and “we’re under attack” the Secret Service don’t make an appearance. Perhaps they couldn’t afford to have bodyguards hustle the president somewhere safe? What about locking down the West Wing as was done in similar stories in the TV series by that name? Designated Survivor caters to the lowest common denominator, intelligence not required.

I managed 3 episodes of Designated Survivor then decided that, if I wanted to watch a political drama, I’d re-watch West Wing. Designated Survivor is a melodramatic soapie with delusions of drama. Avoid unless you want your brain to turn to mush.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Creator: David Guggenheim
Stars: Kiefer Sutherland, Natascha McElhone, Adan Canto
Running time: about 45 minutes per episode, 22 episodes to a season
Designated Survivor — Kirman stands in front of a stylised US flag where the strips represent the blood of victims