Designated Survivor is a weird piece of television. The very fact that Kiefer Sunderland stars in this political thriller makes it impossible not to mention his landmark 24 series. But here, Kiefer plays a character that couldn’t be further from his iconic turn as Jack Bauer, and Designated Survivor is only part action thriller – it’s also part nerdy Washington politicking. Honestly, this show feels more of a West Wing for the Trump era than it does an update of 24.
The show’s premise is that Tom Kirkman (Sunderland), HUD secretary, is made President of the United States after the entire government and line of succession is wiped out. Who’s responsible? Will the nation accept this unelected, non politician as their commander-in-chief? Can he rebuild the entire US political system?
That may not sound intersting on the face of it, but trust me the show becomes addictive very quickly. Although I believe Designated Survivor is a good show, it’s hard to stomach at times. It’s so cheesy that it constantly made me cringe. Think West Wing at it’s blatant bias worst and multiply it a couple of times (FYI: West Wing is one of my favourite shows). Just like 24, you have to suspend your belief a heck of a lot while you watch this show, to a point where you’re asked to ignore absurd plot holes.
For the first couple of episodes Sunderland was a distraction. God help me, I couldn’t look at him and not think Jack Bauer, but I quickly came to realise that Designated Survivor is more evidence that proves Kiefer Sunderland is a top class actor. His political fish-out-of-water routine is bloody convincing and, as the show threw an every increasing stack of silly scenarios at him, Kiefer was the one that held this show down and made it somewhat believable.
Designated Survivor is a good start. It isn’t there with other top notch Netflix shows but it could well be in the future.