REVIEW: New political drama ‘Designated Survivor’ unrealistic, flawed

Amanda Gonzalez

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






New political drama “Designated Survivor” has unrealistic flaws that make the television series polarizing for viewers.

In the show, newly appointed U.S. President Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) has an extremely liberal approach, supporting characters are too young and everyone seems perfectly fine in the face of a terrorist attack.

When a catastrophic explosion occurs at the State of the Union address, the president, cabinet members and nearly all of Congress are wiped out. Sec. of Housing and Urban Development Kirkman serves as the evening’s ‘designated survivor,’ a lower-ranking official who is set aside in case primary White House staffers are massacred.

Now this wallflower cabinet member is immediately promoted from No. 11 in the line of succession to commander-in-chief.

This series has a frustratingly clear political stance that paints conservative Republican characters as conniving, hot-headed snakes, while Kirkman is portrayed as a liberal hero who is ready to fight the good fight.

Michigan Gov. James Royce (Michael Gaston) unconstitutionally ignores the newly appointed president and persecutes Muslim citizens after bombing evidence points towards an Islamic terrorist organization.

Congresswoman Kimble Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen) was the Republican designated survivor and persistently hounds Kirkman.

Army Gen. Harris Cochrane (Kevin McNally) undermines Kirkman’s diplomatic approaches, and is eager to start a war with Algeria after terrorist suspects are traced there.

Later Kirkman finds his confidence in boldly arresting the governor for treason, being critical of the congresswoman and firing the trigger-happy military general.

In a time where political leaders are scarce, Kirkman should not be so disapproving of the little help he has available.

It’s no secret that the Democratic party has a lot of Hollywood support, but other political dramas like “Madam Secretary” and crime dramas like “Blue Bloods” and “Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit” do a much better job of involving both parties’ views on controversial topics.

If “Designated Survivor” were to present both sides fairly when talking about racial discrimination, terrorism and war, the show would introduce the audience to actual political concerns of both parties.

Kirkman’s trusted aide Emily Rhodes (Italia Ricci) serves as his special advisor. Her foe is Chief of Staff Aaron Shore (Adan Canto). These stubbornly competitive characters are in their late 20s or early 30s and tend to disagree on what is right and wrong. Moreover, I don’t like that the show is trying to make a love story out of their relationship.

While I’m glad to see millennials in positions of national power, the show offers little explanation on how they moved up the ranks so fast. Having young, attractive actors is an advantage for any series, but this baby-faced cast seems unrealistic when looking at the ages of real-life senior leaders.

The show premiered Sept. 21, and the past five episodes depict the FBI investigators, leaders and citizens of Washington as emotionally stable, which is odd given that the nation has suffered its most devastating attack since 9/11.

Kirkman’s dysfunctional family seems too cozy waltzing into the White House, distracting the audience. Meanwhile, the scrambling government seems too focused on PR stunts and compromising each other instead of preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution.

In the series, Kirkman’s leadership ability is constantly questioned, much like the leadership abilities of real-life presidential candidates. Given the tension between the presidential campaign, this show makes me curious about who the next president will be — and who their designated survivor could possibly be.