The last few days I have binge-watching in Netflix, Season 1 of Designated Survivor starring Kiefer Sutherland. It is intriguing to see the stories that Hollywood comes up with for their TV shows, unlike what we see here in India. This one is about an accidental President of the USA who is tasked with running the country after every senior member of the Government including the President is killed in a terrorist attack on the Capitol Hill building.

In the United States, on the night of the President’s State of the Union address which is normally attended by the President, Vice-President, Members of the Congress, Senators, Supreme Court Judges and other dignitaries of the Federal Government, they have a protocol to have a person(s) from the cabinet designated as “Designated Survivor” who stays away from the venue to ensure continuity of Government.

In the TV series, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Thomas Kirkman is the least loved member of the President’s cabinet, he is unelected and an appointee, a professor of Architecture, he is scheduled to be fired by the President the day after the State of the Union address. Unfortunately, after the bombing, Thomas is sworn in as the President of the USA and he has many daunting tasks in front of him – identifying the terrorist responsible for the bombing, calming the populace, keeping the states united when one of them want to declare independence, winning the hearts of the people to accept him as their President and finally to rebuild the entire Federal Government back including the Congress and the Supreme Court of the USA. Kiefer Sutherland has played the role of Thomas Kirkman, a complete novice in the White House very well, in fact, he is the one holding the entire show together, and Natascha McElhone as the First Lady has played her supporting role well.

The power play and the politics remind you of other White House dramas. You will expect a thrilling mystery in the investigation following this devastating attack, what we get to see is a pedestrian one involving only two FBI agents – if this had been done better, Designated Survivor would’ve been a fantastic Washington themed TV show.

Designated Survivor (TV series)

Update 2021:

Season 2 was a bit dull and I abandoned it. But, having restarted it, I found Season 3 to be interesting – in this President Kirkman decides to contest reelection as the President and hires a kick-ass campaign manager. The compulsions of vote-politics and the tensions with Kirkman’s country-above-party(s) principals were good to watch. Like with Season 1, there is a new security threat, a Biowarfare threat as well. It was unfortunate the show was not renewed for another season.

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