Thursday, September 22, 2016

New Fall TV - Designated Survivor Blows Us Away!

Designated Survivor – ABC

A low-level Cabinet member becomes President of the United States after a catastrophic attack kills everyone above him in the Presidential line of succession.

Where to begin, let’s start with the cast. The list is long, which is not always a good thing—too many chefs in the kitchen but in this case I am impressed.  We have got Kiefer Sutherland, famously known for his role as Jack Bauer on the television series 24.  Next we have Kal Penn, best known as Kumar in the Harold and Kumar movies, also known as Dr. Lawrence Kutner on House MD and more recently as Fontanelle White on Battle Creek.

Playing Jessica Kirkman is Natascha McElhone, most recently known as Karen on Californication and previously for her roles in the movies Solaris, Ronin, and The Truman Show.  Also popping her head in is Maggie Q as FBI Agent Hannah Wells– loved Stalker, so disappointed it got cancelled- I digress. Maggie Q was recently seen on the big screen in the Divergent movies, she is also the queen of the action drama portraying badass women in Nikita and Stalker.

That is a snip of the cast as there are a lot of moving parts on this show. It is well paced giving you gulps of information and anxiety at a time. Making you empathize and feel for Tom Kirkman the once cabinet member and now President of the United States.

Right off the bat everything happens very quickly which many times is a bad opening. A lot can be lost in translation if it is not paced and scripted diligently. Thankfully this was not the case in the pilot of Designated Survivor. The episode moved flawlessly taking you through the calm, the disappointment, the shock, the awe, the confusion and the nausea of what our government could possibly look like if an event of this magnitude were to take place. At the same moment we are reminded this is television and we settle into our new reality with hope. Hope for the characters, their struggles and their choices. 

Basic premise right of the bat is intriguing, however what is the staying power of such a show? Crisis management can only last so long until you start treading into the weeds of non- reality. We saw it happen in Revolution fairly quickly with no recovery. This was and is my major concern about this show. I will say, upfront the pilot episode did ease my inhibitions a little. Good writing will do that.

Speaking of good writing, Designated Survivor has a few aces in the writers room for whom I have faith to pull out the stops. All seasoned pros, as a writer myself I would love to witness the energy of that dynamic. For example, you have the brains of West Wing, Suits and The Unit, the creativeness of No Ordinary Family and Tru Calling, the out of the box mentality of Lost and Cold Case and a gutsy, greenish producer who is looking to conquer the television medium. It will definitely be interesting. 

More to come, Designated Survivor is on ABC, Wednesday nights, check your local listings. Designated survivor is being put to the three episode test so stayed tuned for the results!

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