Netflix Pick – Designated Survivor

With House of Cards currently losing a huge following given the recent events of Kevin Spacey. I decided to cheat on House of Cards with another political drama with a more unusual narrative, and judging by the cast, a lower budget. I present to you this week’s Netflix Pick – Designated Survivor. Below is a quick outline of what the show is about, followed by the cast and then onto my, probably harsh, opinion. By the way, there are NO Spoilers here!

Netflix Pick - Designated Survivor

What is it about?

Designated Survivor is about a low-level Cabinet member who becomes President of The United States after the rest of Congress and higher Cabinet members all tragically die in an attack in Washington. As the Designated Survivor, (Kiefer Sutherland) must deal with the day-to-day duties of running the country and free-world.

Cast of Designated Survivor

Kiefer Sutherland (24, Flatliners, nothing else really but his Dad is famous) plays Jack Bauer, wait no, he plays Tom Kirkman as the Designated Survivor. A passive, inexperienced Cabinet member who inherits the keys to running the free world. His duties as default President include breathing heavily when speaking to people in the same room, awkwardly smiling, awkwardly acting like a parent, awkwardly feeling awkward in awkward situations involving awkwardness and constantly taking off and putting on his glasses when acting to create a sense of ‘I’m important now’.

Kal Penn (Van Wilder, Van Wilder 2: Rise of Taj, Harold and Kumar Get the Munchies). You can see why the casting choices for me were questionable prior to me watching. Kal Penn plays The White House speaker, he’s charismatic and multi-racial so he ticks loads of ‘Equal Opportunity’ boxes. To be fair he’s actually a charming character and seems to be one of the only characters with a shred of humour.

Designated Suvivor - Kal Penn

Maggie Q (Divergent Series, Die Hard 4, Mission Impossible 3) plays an attractive female ‘Jack Bauer’ who finds herself in sticky situations and often managing to get out of them. In true ’24’ style. In all fairness, it’s nice to see that a ‘boots on the ground’ character is played by a powerful female character.

Natascha McElhone (Trueman Show, Californication, Solaris) Tom Kirkman’s wife who he is massively punching above his weight on.

Malik Yoba (Cool Runnings, Copland I seem to remember) That’s right, Yul Brenner from Cool Runnings. His character is actually pretty cool. Doesn’t do much running though, disappointed.

Designated Survivor - Malik Yoba

The Review

Despite my attempt at humour when mentioning the cast, because it does seem like most of the cast would be unrecognisable to the average Joe, I actually found the first season to be entertaining. Apparently, Kiefer Sutherland wasn’t really on board and didn’t fancy anymore ‘series’ work given his 8 seasons of Jack Bauer, but once he read the script, he immediately put his name to it. I actually agree.

Our Netflix Pick – Designated Survivor does remind me of 24, but not because Kiefer Sutherland’s breath-acting is taking up a lot of screen time. He actually isn’t in this as much as I’d expect from the Executive Producer. The show focuses on many different plots and characters so it gives you a sense of “oh my goodness is it him/her that did the unspeakable thing”. There is also a fair amount of ‘action’ for the people who desire a little more than just talking, standing around and people in suits.

Netflix Pick - Designated Survivor

Like most multi-episode series though, it has its quiet periods and sometimes you find yourself struggling to want to watch more. It could’ve been condensed down to 12 really good episodes but I suppose to build suspense, it takes time. It would be nice to watch a 1 season show where there is a beginning, middle and an end, then you can move on. Netflix, unfortunately, doesn’t tend to commission those.

I suggest watching Designated Survivor if you’re trying to fill the void that House of Cards has left or any other multi-series show. It’s not one where you can watch for 30 minutes and not really pay attention to. It’s entertaining, and not too predictable. Rating – 7.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes – 85%

Big Dan’s Review – 8/10

For other Netflix Pick’s, feel free to read up on our very own Rich Burnham’s thoughts on the charming comedy, Sing Street. 


What do you think? Leave a comment below!