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Designated Survivor (ABC>Netflix)

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by Adam Lenhardt, Sep 21, 2016.

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  1. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Director

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    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.
     
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  2. DavidJ

    DavidJ Producer

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    I set my DVR to record it, but it failed to do so. Hopefully, I'll be able to watch it on demand.
     
  3. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    It's on Hulu, just got done watching it there.

    My verdict: it's a keeper. Whenever a show ends and I look up and think "Already?" it's a very good sign. This is a perfect role for Sutherland, and it allows him to play more shades than "24" did. Also, nice turns by Maggie Q & Kal Penn,. I'm not totally sold on the rest of the supporting cast but am willing to give them time to develop.

    I'm with Adam in that if the show has a potential Achilles heal, it's the family stuff. Sorkin & his team were so smart with TWW to establish the main players and then slowly introduce us to Bartlet's family. This show needs to back burner the kids immediately while we get to know the rest of the characters.

    Although they didn't establish a year, they did pretty clearly set this in January of an election year (Tom has been HUD Secretary for 3 years, the CoS mentions the upcoming re-election campaign). So I do believe that the perpetrators of the event will turn out to be domestic; the intent being to clear the decks so "they" can elect a president and Congress who will do "their" bidding. That IED was clearly not meant to explode (no strike plate), but to be found and throw the investigators off the scent.
     
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  4. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    It's certainly the best pilot that I've seen this week. Really enjoyed it and look forward to future installments.

    Ratings were good, too.
     
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  5. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Director

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    And Netflix picked up the next day international rights for the rest of the world besides the US and Canada. So even if its ABC ratings drop low enough to merit cancellation, if it streams well we might see it live on as a Netflix original! But hopefully the strong start is a sign of good things to come.

    Craig, re: the timeline. I kind of hope they establish this as a near future year like 2020 or even 2024. Given that they've referenced real world events in both the Bush II and Obama administrations, it'd feel weird to have them proscribed to a fictional president. "Veep" on HBO, for instance, has been very careful not to reference any real world presidents subsequent to Jimmy Carter. But when you have 9/11 as a touchstone comparison, it's a lot harder to do that. And if the show hadn't referenced 9/11 in the aftermath of an attack like this, that itself would have felt really strange.
     
  6. McPaul

    McPaul Screenwriter

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    I'm happy with this show. Knew I would be. However. Television lately has been about
    1. Let's come up with an awesome premise for a series
    2. Let's blast the entire network with trailers showcasing this example of excellent storytelling idea writing
    3. And then promptly blow through the entire premise (which sold us on the show) before the first credits begin to roll.
    4. The series becomes your standard (in this case political drama) but with a minor twist storyline
    Recent examples that come to mind: blind spot - this girl has tattoos that reveal each story, black list - spader surrenders to FBI...

    I'm really hopeful this show can be successful over one or more seasons.

    I'm really happy with keifer and think this is a role he naturally is suited to. I thought the first episode could have benefited from a double or 90 minute episode. I'd like to see him take on a sort of Jack Ryan/Jack Bauer role. President badass. I wasn't happy with the tension level though. Everyone was remarkably calm considering the capitol was just taken out. Also, I wouldn't think the new president would be anywhere D.C. (Within range of the incident) Or anywhere near outside or a window.
     
  7. Johnny Angell

    Johnny Angell Played With Dinosaurs Member

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    To those who think they should back-off on the domestic side of the story, I agree. I groaned when the kid was revealed to be an idiot stoner. However, there was that moment when he stepped up to the plate and acted like a real big brother for his little sister. Maybe there's hope for the kid yet.

    The comment about Kirkman not being a full-fledged president, that's news to me. I thought if you were next up in the line of succession, no matter how far down, you were officially the man. As for nominating a VP that has to be approved by the Senate, I think, but you do get to nominate a VP.

    Sutherland is excellent. I did not notice a cast member who didn't get the job done. Production values are good. The President's wife at first came across as weak of resolve, but later seemed to right her ship.

    From the previews, we learn that the fact he was going to be fired becomes public. While they may not have given a year this is taking place, I never thought it was anything but present day. The firing becoming public is so present day politics.

    If there's one that that seems less than original it's the general who wants to stage a coup. It seems to me the military is used to often in hollywood as the heavy. Why couldn't the General have been a rock for the new president?

    I will be watching this.
     
  8. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Director

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    Under the terms of the 25th Amendment, "the Vice President shall become President" if the president dies, resigns or is removed from office. This formalized the Tyler precedent. By contrast, under the terms of Article II, Section 1, if there is neither a president nor vice president, Congress is empowered to declare "what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected."

    In the scenario presented by the show, Kirkman (as the Officer designated by Congress in the Presidential Succession Act of 1947) will act as President until a President is elected, with the full powers and duties of that office, but he is not himself technically the president. I don't expect the show to dwell on this technicality, especially since it has no practical distinction. The only thing a president can do that an acting president can't do is nominate a vice president. And since vice presidential nominees need to be confirmed by both houses of Congress, and nearly every member of Congress is also dead, there's no prospect of a new vice president any time soon.

    The smart thing the show did was establish that the attack took place in the January of a presidential election year. This means that the mechanism to elect a new proper president and a replacement Congress is less than ten months away. I would imagine that Kirkman will run for president and he will win, because a ten-month presidency would make for a very short-lived series. At that point he would formally hold the title, and he wouldn't have to nominate a vice president because his running mate would have been elected with him.
     
  9. todd s

    todd s Lead Actor

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    I did like the tension and horror felt by everyone. I do like how Kirkman is unsure of himself. Do like that he is not completely inept...ie the meeting with the Iranian Ambassador. I didn't like the stereotypical General who is ready to commit treason. Also, I really hope they don't make this an inside job with the bombing.
     
  10. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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    I'm hoping to like this show after seeing the pilot, just wondering what lengths they go to not have it turn into the Jack Bauer Power Hour... LOL!
     
  11. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Director

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    This episode was less polished than the pilot, a bit heavier handed and more "TV" in the old pejorative sense of the term than cinematic. But it got the balance right for what I'm hoping this show will be: The demands of rebuilding the government, the demands of being the president in a time of immense crisis, the demands of being president period, and the investigation into what really happened.

    Most shows would have wanted to give Kirkman a very public win right off the bat, to establish a baseline of credibility the show could build from. The choices here were more daring: His first address to the nation as president is a dud, and his attempted at a George W. Bush "I hear you, the rest of the world hears you" moment atop the rubble is derailed in spectacular fashion by the chaos of the moment and an overskittish Secret Service doing everything possible to keep the last person with a valid claim to the presidency safe.

    So far he has had two major successes: Getting the Iranians to back down, and getting the governor of Michigan to back down. But in both cases only a handful of people even know what he did. He is slowly winning the grudging respect of some key political elites -- certainly the surviving congresswoman from the opposition has started to take him seriously -- but that is arguably less important than it's ever been. In the public's eye, he's had two strikes at his first two swings.

    I like the subtle ways the show demonstrates how well-read Kirkman is, how well informed he is about topics outside his primary area of expertise. I like the way the deputy chief of staff that Kirkman inherited has steadfastly kept to his marching orders in private meetings so far. I like the way Kirkman's own chief of staff from HUD is shown to be politically extremely well-versed and knowledgeable as any chief of staff for any executive department would be.

    I didn't like the decision to have the entirety of the Supreme Court and the entirety of Congress (save for Virginia Madsen's Congresswoman) die in the attack. It's just too clean in a way that doesn't feel real. While the State of the Union remains of the last vastly popular bipartisan draws, there are always some that can't make it. In recent years, three justices have skipped with regularity. And whether trying to make a statement or just the sheer logistics of life, you usually see a couple senators and a handful of congressmen absent.

    The family scenes continue to be the weakest link.

    Really appreciated the scene at the end when he visited the first responders incognito and was able to thank them in a more genuine way.

    The bookending scenes with Kal Penn's character were a little too on the nose, but effective. I particularly liked the moment with the cop at the end, when Seth thinks he's in for a repeat of the morning's incident but the cop's just reaching out devastated human being to devastated human being. A reminder that horrific events bring out the best in people as well as the worst.

    As long as this show continues to be about smart people using their brains to solve problems, I'm going to be an engaged viewer.
     
  12. David Weicker

    David Weicker Cinematographer

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    Another very good episode.

    I like that Kirkman thinks things through. His resolution to
    Michigan
    was definitely out-of-the-box, but effective (
    personally, I would have sent troops in to get the Gov on the phone :), OK, maybe not)

    I am getting a bit frustrated with the accelerated timeline. I know people want answers, but it is idiotic and moronic to think that results will happen in less than 24 hours. I mean, it is physically impossible to sift through the rubble at the Capital in that amount of time, much less gather ALL the evidence to come up with a cohesive picture of what happened, much less who. The area would not have been declared structurally safe (heck, part of the building is just leaning there), so the effort required to find all the explosives would only have begun.

    And how in hell did that guy become a General, much less the top General. He has the strategic acumen of a slug. You need to know your enemy before you fight your enemy.


    I do hope the previews are misleading,
    and that Virginia Madsen doesn't turn out to be a nemesis. That has been used so often, that its become annoying.
     
  13. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Smart television so far and very watchable. Now that The Good Wife is over, this has become appointment television for me.
     
  14. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    BTW, the show just got a full season pick-up from ABC.
     
  15. Mark_B

    Mark_B Second Unit

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    Just finished watching this episode and I may be wrong, but at the scene at the end by the memorial, the picture of the person I assumed was the president sure looked like Keth Carradine from Madame Secretary. Different network tho. Think the writers just threw that in? But like I said, I'm probably imagining things.
     
  16. David Weicker

    David Weicker Cinematographer

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    I don't recall a picture of the President being shown. They did show Maggie Q's friend among the photos

    The late President was shown in the pilot (actor Richard Bekin).
     
  17. Message #17 of 329 Sep 29, 2016
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    Mark_B

    Mark_B Second Unit

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    You're correct. I looked up Richard Bekin and he could be Keith Carradine's twin. My wife also thought it was him. I thought the writers were doing doing some sort of inside joke. I guess I need to pay closer attention.
     
  18. Stan

    Stan Producer

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    After reading through this thread, added it to the DVR. Just finished episode one on ABC.com, commercial free and no charge.
     
  19. RolandL

    RolandL Producer

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    Kiefer Sutherland was at the Infinity Music Hall, Hartford, CT a few days ago with his band. He didn't torture or kill anyone so we had a good time. He mostly plays songs that he wrote. Also talks about his life and why he wrote each song. He doesn't have any future play dates on his web site.
     
  20. Doug Wallen

    Doug Wallen Producer
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    Episode 2 - watched this Sunday afternoon with the family. Who'd a thought this would turn into a "family" show.

    I was impressed with the way Kirkman is slowly winning people over by just being himself, not a politician. How refreshing to see this type of portrayal.

    I am really liking most aspects of this show with the exception of the son's storyline. There is enough drama without making this teen hiding himself from his parents. I did like the conversation that Mom had with him. More is now expected of all of them.

    Glad this show was picked up and hope it continues to be as entertaining.
     
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