Although it only lasted for two seasons, ABC’s political drama Designated Survivor managed to leave a lasting impression on its viewers. Its debut in 2016 had been timely, considering the US was in the midst of its presidential elections at the time. Therefore, it was no surprise that several aspects of the show served to indirectly challenge the current presidential seat.
Designated Survivor opens with an explosion in the US Capitol building, killing the President and everyone in the line of succession except the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Thomas Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland). Kirkman had been named the president’s designated survivor, which is why he is immediately sworn in as President following the bombings. Being under qualified for the job, Kirkman struggles to deal with crisis after crisis, all while investigating a possible conspiracy that involved the bombings.
The show found itself in a weird predicament when actual political events became more absurd than fiction. In fact, many of the show’s plot lines became actual headlines on newspapers. However, cast member Kal Penn iterates that the show followed an aspirational route, which is why they want audiences to separate it from the realities of today’s government. For one thing, even though Kirkman very little experience, he is an honest man and had idealistic qualities that many would desire in a president. He also stood up for the Muslim community, which is definitely something you wouldn’t see the current POTUS do.
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Actor Kiefer Sutherland expressed that it wasn’t the first time he experienced an eerie connection between a show he starred in and real live events.
Actor Kiefer Sutherland expressed that it wasn’t the first time he experienced an eerie connection between a show he starred in and real live events. A Hollywood Reporter piece reveals that another show Sutherland had starred in, 24, had already finished filming 7 months’ worth of footage before the tragic events of 9/11 took place. He says, “It was eerie how we were just imagining the worst circumstance possible, create a season of 24 around it, and six months later, it was happening for real.”
For people not familiar with 24 (where have you been hiding?), it is another show that explored themes of terrorism and political unrest. It was frequently cited by critics as one of the best shows on TV because of its innovative way of taking serial story arcs to the next level. 24's format shows 24 hours in the protagonist’s life using a real-time method of narration. It’s a novel concept that has become the inspiration of many different mediums aside from TV. For instance, PartyPoker’s 24 H game not only features elements from the show and Sutherland's character, but it also automatically disconnects players if they have not made any actions for a specific number of consecutive minutes. This may be an indication not to waste any precious time while playing the game, where, like the show, every minute counts. Thankfully, the game’s session recovery feature allows users to continue where they left off. Such is not the case with the TV show 24 though. As a counter-terrorist agent, Jack Bauer played by Sutherland must do everything he can to thwart terrorist threats to the country.
It seems that Kiefer Sutherland is interested in projects that reflect or can potentially have an impact on real life events. Sutherland’s resume is filled with interesting roles that aren’t just limited to TV shows. For more of his work, you can read up on Hollywood Progressive’s review of Forsaken, a Western movie which Sutherland also stars in.
Andrew Ryan is a freelance writer and a self-confessed TV drama fanatic. He's a sucker for crime and political thrillers but he also enjoys watching horror shows and sitcoms. His current favorite is House of Cards.