TV Review - Designated Survivor

ABC had a hit last season with Quantico, which was about FBI agents having to investigate a crazy terrorist attack against in the United States in New York City again, while also being about how the agents first started training to be in the FBI. The network also had the political drama and White House intrigue by Shonda Rhimes called Scandal. That series is on hiatus this fall, so to fill the Scandal void and also to capitalize off the success of Quantico, the network has this.

Kiefer Sutherland (24 and Touch) stars as Tom Kirkman, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, an appointment to the Presidential cabinet who is held in a secure location during the State of the Union as the "designated survivor." A person either in the executive branch or legislative branch is kept someplace private and safe in the event of a terrorist attack on the entire federal government in one spot, which would result in everyone's deaths.

Writer David Guggenheim takes that extreme back-up plan and runs with it. A terrorist attack destroys the Capitol building during the State of the Union, which basically kills every elected official in the federal government. Tom Kirkman is the only one remaining, so he becomes the de facto President of the U.S. He's a highly educated man but not a politician and not prepared to be Commander-in-Chief and has to learn fast and rise to the occasion.

Adan Canto (The Following and Mixology) plays Aaron Shore, the Chief of Staff of the killed President. Italia Ricci (Chasing Life and Supergirl) plays Emily Rhodes, Tom's Chief of Staff as the Secretary of HUD. Both Aaron and Emily jockey to keep their jobs, which now all of a sudden is in competition with each other. Aaron has the experience of running the White House. Emily has the experience of handling Tom.

Maggie Q (Live Free or Die Hard and Divergent) co-stars as Hannah Wells, the FBI agent assigned in charge of the bombing investigation. Malik Yoba (Empire and New York Undercover) plays Jason Atwood, a deputy director to the FBI who leads Hannah and other agents in the investigation. Jason is led to believe that the bombing is the result of a particular terrorist group but Hannah is the dissenting opinion.

Kal Penn (Battlecreek and House) also co-stars as Seth Wright, the speechwriter in the White House who has a great arc in the second episode. Hate crimes and discrimination against Muslims break out in Dearborn, Michigan, and because Seth is brown-skinned, he gets stopped by police and strange looks from people on the street. Seth's relationship with Tom is an interesting one. It starts awkwardly but honesty.

After the initial premise falls away, the series feels like it will probably settle into a version of The West Wing with echoes of Scandal. It doesn't have an outstanding hook that will distinguish it in the long run like House of Cards, but it will be an okay stand-in until Scandal returns to the airwaves.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-PG-L.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Wednesdays at 10PM on ABC.


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