‘Designated Survivor’ Gets Renewed Life on Netflix

I am a fan of the television series Designated Survivor. The premise is an interesting one: On the night of the State of the Union Address, a terrorist explosion destroys the Capitol Building, claiming the lives of the President and everyone in the line of succession except the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Thomas Kirkman, who is subsequently sworn in as President.

The series stars Kiefer Sutherland as the de facto President. It’s a good dramatic role for Sutherland – a stark contrast to the secret agent character he played on the Fox drama series 24.

I have been a fan of Sutherland ever since my first exposure to his acting in the coming-of-age film Stand By Me and the vampire drama The Lost Boys. I also thoroughly enjoyed him in Young Guns and its sequel, Young Guns II (which I actually found more entertaining than the original). Other notable Sutherland films include Flatliners, A Few Good Men, The Vanishing, and Phone Booth.

I watched the first two seasons of Designated Survivor on ABC and was disappointed to learn of its cancellation. Imagine my surprise and happiness to discover the series has been given new life by Netflix who picked the show up for a third season. Hopefully it won’t be the last.

Now airing on the Internet station, Designated Survivor is enjoying newfound freedom of expression not previously available to the writers while airing on ABC. There are far more bedroom scenes and the characters often resort to foul language. I don’t mind the more risqué story elements, although I don’t think they necessarily add much to the show.

What I especially like about the new season is the evolution of former President Cornelius Moss into a second time around Presidential candidate who engages in Trump-like deceit and dirty tricks. The role is perfectly played by veteran actor Geoff Pierson. The Trump-like behavior probably wouldn’t have been feasible on ABC, but is refreshing on the show’s new network.

My one complaint about season three is focused on a single episode. In that mid-season episode one of Kirkman’s White House support staff engages in a one-night affair with another White House staffer, destroying his relationship with his live-in girlfriend. I found the episode to be cheap and soap operaish; not fitting of the drama’s normal quality storytelling. But not every episode is going to be everyone’s favorite.

Television is not reality (let’s face it, even “reality television” is scripted). The stories on Designated Survivor may sometimes mirror real life events or people, but it should never be confused with reality. It is entertainment, not news or documentary. And as entertainment, Designated Survivor is very appealing.

If you haven’t experienced Designated Survivor yet, I encourage you to give it a try. If possible, start with season one. The show is best enjoyed from the beginning.

The supporting cast is excellent. Standouts include Adan Canto, Kal Penn, Julie White, Maggie Q, Elena Tovar, and Anthony Edwards.

Edwards deserves singling out because he is often found in bedroom scenes despite not having a “Hollywood body.” He’s bony and bald – far from the hunks that normal shed their clothes on television and in the movies. It’s refreshing to see him demonstrate the self-confidence to portray a leading man with realistic imperfections. That’s not something you see often anymore.

That’s part of the charm about Designated Survivor. It doesn’t always play along stereotypical plot lines. It provides a truly unique look at the American political process, with an eye on the human element.


Peace. Love. Trust.

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