A joint session of Congress, like the State of the Union address, is one of the rare times when the entire line of succession to the presidency is in one place. To ensure continuity of government in the event of a cataclysmic event, one member of the cabinet does not attend, spending the evening out of state or elsewhere in the D.C. metro region far enough away to avoid being caught in the same attack. This year, it was Jeh Johnson (the Secretary of Homeland Security). Last year, it was Anthony Foxx, the Secretary of Transportation. On ABC's "Designated Survivor", an intriguing cross between a gripping Tom Clancy political thriller and the serendipitous idealism of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, it's Tom Kirkman, the naive and plain-spoken Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, thirteenth in line to the presidency barring any more senior cabinet members being disqualified from the office by citizenship, age or length of residency. Shortly into the State of the Union address, a series of devastating explosions rip through the US Capitol, killing the President, the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, the President pro tempore of the Senate, and the remainder of the president's cabinet. All electronic devices that could be used to track Secretary Kirkman's location are removed from his vicinity, and the secretary and his wife are immediately conveyed to the motorcade for a hard charge to the White House. Upon arrival, he is separated from his wife and ushered into the President's Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) where the fate of the free world awaits. I was entranced the whole way through. Kiefer Sutherland was perfect for this role. When he needs to be, like with the Iranian ambassador, he can bring out that Jack Bauer toughness. But the rest of the time, he's playing in Jimmy Stewart territory: He's the sort of man that speaks to the best in the American character, and because he doesn't shout or bluster or fire off half-cocked, he's viewed with suspicion bordering on contempt by the surviving civilian members of the previous administration, and the general who has taken it upon himself to call the shots. From what I've read about how this horrific scenario would play out, they got it mostly right. Like "The Last Ship", they seem to be going with the idea that Kirkman would assume the office of president, when the text of the constitution makes it clear that he would only act as President; functionally, it's pretty much the same thing, but there are some limitations, like being able to nominate a vice president. He's all we've got until the next presidential election, whenever that might be. And the show's version of the PEOC is a lot closer to the Dr. Stangelove war room than the photos of a concrete reinforced conference room that we saw from 9/11. Smartly, they didn't establish a year when this takes place, and did establish that it's not a version of our right now. A different president, and an oval office that reflects many of the design choices of the Obama oval office without exactly duplicating the look of the oval office under any of the previous presidents. The parts that remain the same for all presidents were captured perfectly, however. The storyline with the son dealing drugs seems destined to get old very fast. On the other hand, the idea of not being able to locate him because he lied about who he was hanging out with rings all too true. Until the bombs went off, the location of the HUD secretary's delinquent son just wasn't a priority. Among the casting, Natascha McElhone seemed like the weak link in the pilot. She just gives off an inauthentic, quasi-Lady Macbeth vibe that makes me distrust her. The general plotting to overthrow Kirkman seemed plausible given his preferences for action and the outrageous circumstances that put Kirkman in that chair. But I hope this doesn't turn into a Shondaland melodrama, with one shocker after another, each less plausible than the last. The concept of the show is brimming with such inherent drama that you don't need to manufacture any more. Just play out the scenario in a straight, grounded way. A first scene divided between the challenges of the Kirkman administration piecing the federal government and the country back together, and the investigation into the attack on the Capitol, gives them plenty to chew on.