ABC is picking up Designated Survivor to series for the fall. The new drama starring Kiefer Sutherland was actually ordered straight to series last December, but Deadline’s insider sources revealed there was most likely an out-clause that allowed the network to decline the show, if they chose, after the pilot.
The story centers on Tom Kirkman (Sutherland), a lower U.S. Cabinet member who is handed the Presidency when a catastrophic attack wipes out the State of the Union gathering. Kirkman is thrust into one of the most difficult presidential terms in history while struggling to keep his family on track.
Oddly enough, I wondered about that very idea while watching this year’s SOTU and I looked up how it was handled. Thus, I learned about the designated survivor: one person who is locked away safely while everyone else is in that room. The practice started during the Cold War and follows the same requirements for Presidency, so Madeline Albright, though secretary of state, couldn’t be one since she wasn’t a born U.S. citizen
ABC released this teaser. You have to admit it’s hard not to think of him as Jack Bauer:
Viewers may be happy to see Jack Bauer step into the Oval Office onscreen just as this election cycle enters the final, frantic months. Still, we have to believe the creators have something more subtle in mind than just co-opting that iconic character. But it’s hard to imagine. There’s a pretty notable starched-shirt difference between Sutherland and other beloved TV Presidents: think Martin Sheen (The West Wing), Kevin Spacey (House of Cards), Tony Goldwyn (Scandal), Dennis Haysbert (24) – now try and picture Sutherland in that suit. He’s an actor who made his name playing vampires, cowboys, and musketeers. Can he command a conference room of suits without having a gun strapped to his hip? It sounds like it, as the show was said to have one of the strongest pilots shown to the network this season.
The show was created by David Guggenheim (Stolen, Safe House) for producer Simon Kinberg (Sherlock Holmes, Deadpool), who got it into production with The Mark Gordon Company (Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds). Amy B. Harris (Wicked City) was originally tapped as showrunner but recently stepped aside due to creative differences. Jon Harmon Feldman (Blood & Oil) has an exclusive deal with ABC and is in talks to take over as showrunner.
Other cast members include Maggie Q, Kal Penn, Adan Canto, Natascha McElhon, and LaMonica Garrett.
This will be Sutherland’s first appearance back in prime-time TV since he wrapped his run in the 24 franchise with 2014’s 24: Live Another Day. He is still an executive producer on the upcoming Fox reboot 24: Legacy, but is not expected to appear in the show. The Hollywood Reporter noted that Designated Survivor aligns with ABC’s new focus on developing procedural shows, in an effort to balance their popular soapy dramas like Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy.