Designated Survivor Is Television We’ve Been Waiting For

The current political climate is messy. In the real world. I’d argue that most people are tired of the Presidential race and we’re still months out from voting. Which might be why previews for Designated Survivor during the Emmy’s got my attention.

The premise is exciting because it’s real — based on elementary school lessons we know there’s a chain of “next in lines” for the presidency if anything happens to the Commander In Chief. Vice President goes first, Speaker Of The House (if my grade school lessons were correctly remembered), and so on. What I learned recently was what became the basis for this series — When all those people gather in a single location, one person (usually lowest on the totem pole) is kept in a secure location in the event like… well, the one on the show.

It’s like George from the mail room being promoted to CEO because the corporate jet crashed on a retreat to Big Bear.

That’s jarring and exciting all at the same time which Designated Survivor establishes and handles beautifully. The show seems to purposely confuse you, keep you on your feet, just like Kiefer Sutherland’s Tom Kirkman. The pilot is the most exciting television I’ve seen in years.

Part of that excitement comes from Sutherland who is so flawless at being vulnerable and simultaneously powerful. The premise for the first episode jettisons you into the thick of a national tragedy (think 9/11) and a man unexpectedly thrust into the driver’s seat. Kiefer handles that emotional rollercoaster brilliantly, leaving you rooting for him almost instantly. And that’s the point.

What typically disappoints me about network dramas wasn’t present here. There wasn’t any spoon-feeding plots, back stories were kept minimal but informational enough to understand the current situation, and there wasn’t anything thrown in for shock value. The hour-long premiere is well paced and crams lots of subtle pieces of information for you to find on your own.

While we’re looking for an escape from real world politics, Designated Survivor is a welcome escape. And if the rest of the series can hold the same quality as the pilot, it’s also one of the best dramas in years.