Kiefer Sutherland’s ‘Designated Survivor’ trailer is a potboiler

image: ABC

We’ve got the trailer for Kiefer Sutherland’s new ABC series Designated Survivor, and it looks like he’s poised to save the world again – just not in the way we’re used to.

One-part political drama, one-part terrorism thriller, the show begins with a very bad day in the life of Cabinet member Tom Kirkman. He goes from being fired by the President to being the President after Washington is attacked and he’s the titular “designated survivor.”

But Kirkman is no Jack Bauer. The trailer doesn’t feature him punching anyone or getting a hacksaw, and he has no support from the surviving staff members (led by Battle Creek‘s Kal Penn, who’s got art imitating life a little bit since he actually worked at the White House). If there’s anyone who might be doing some butt-kicking, it’s former Nikita and Stalker star Maggie Q as the lead investigator on the case.

Watch the nail-biting trailer for yourself below:

It certainly evokes shades of 24, but everything that it’s not is what makes Designated Survivor so compelling. From the looks of this trailer Sutherland is once again our country’s last, best hope – but this time he really is the last guy that we wanted. Kirkman doesn’t have Jack’s skill set, his fearlessness or his allies. Instead this show is shaping up to be an exploration of him rising to an occasion for which he is thoroughly unprepared.

Watching Sutherland tackle that should be half the fun. We know him for strong characters, but he’s very good when playing from a position of weakness as well. Remember all the breakdowns Jack had? Or there’s an obscure 1990’s film called Ground Control where his character loses it after a plane crash and the entire sequence is heartbreaking to see. He should be able to dig into this guy, and the thriller genre puts him back in his best element.

Designated Survivor is also well-cast all around him, too. There’s Natascha McElhone (Californication) as Kirkman’s loyal wife, Penn and Q doing what they do best, Italia Ricci (Chasing Life), and Adan Canto (The Following). Creator David Guggenheim wrote the entertainingly action-packed Denzel Washington-Ryan Reynolds flick Safe House for Universal Pictures, so he’s not a newbie in this wheelhouse either.

Of course it’s a bit amusing that ABC launched this trailer the day after FOX dropped the trailer for 24: Legacy. But the Designated Survivor trailer has everything the Legacy trailer doesn’t and vice versa. Legacy has the action, yet Designated Survivor has the genuine tension and drama – and Sutherland, who looks like he’s about to hit another show out of the park.

Designated Survivor will air Wednesdays at 10 p.m. this fall on ABC.


Brittany Frederick

Brittany Frederick is an award-winning entertainment and sports journalist, screenwriter, and novelist. She was named an honorary analyst for Section 20 (#StrikeBack), and when she's not working with TV heroes, you can find her trying to be one in real life on the Verizon IndyCar Series. You can reach her at her official website ( and on Twitter @tvbrittanyf.

Related Articles

Back to top button