Ever heard the expression “Art imitating reality?” It has come to TV with the very entertaining series, Designated Survivor.
If you have not begun watching this series, you should consider starting. Usually, it is shown on Wednesday evenings at 10pm but double check your local listings.
Plot synopsis: Keifer Sutherland, son of Donald, portrays the low level American minister of Housing and Urban Development a la Ben Carson in Donald Trump’s cabinet now. Keifer plays the role of US President Kirk who has come to office through a terrorist catastrophe. Almost every US congressman, senator, cabinet minister and the president and vice president have been killed in a incredible terrorist attack on Washington, DC. Kirk (Sutherland) is the only surviving government office holder in line for the presidency, although he has never had presidential aspirations, has no political ambitions at all and is an almost totally clean political animal.
There is a conspiracy to have this man put into the position purposefully. The conspirators believe Kirk is so unambitious, so lowly in his office responsibilities and was even likely to be removed from his position by the past president. Kirk, the conspirators believe, is unlikely to garner any support whatsoever when he is put into office after the attack. However, he begins to grow ‘into the office’ becoming more and more presidential with each episode.
Realistic scenarios, believable situations.
The series scenes are well developed and very believable. Political ambitions and congressional competition as portrayed in the series are likely based on reality and are very believably depicted.
The newly appointed Vice president, about whom Kirk correctly has misgivings from the start, is written as being involved in the conspiracy. His assassination is hard to believe as are a number of the situations depicted in the series. However, there is some validity in the old adage ‘truth is stranger than fiction,’ so scenes in the series should not be discarded too readily.
Keifer Sutherland, son of Canadian Donald Sutherland, has had a number of successful TV series, the best known was 24 hours.
Sutherland has rolled the dice in becoming the executive producer of the new series, a stakes gamble which could pay off if the series hits the target with viewer popularity.
Sutherland portrays the presidential role with authenticity and believability, though I dislike his vocal deliver dropping down to a nearly hoarse whisper for dramatic effect far too often. Still, his manners, his tone, his persona seem well suited to the role.
His wife, actor Natascia McElhone, seems to cross the t’s and dot the i’s in her role as the president’s wife. My opinion is that she is unsuited for the role as she is too elegant, glamorous to depict a president’s wife. Hmm, is Melania elegant and very glamorous, possibly a few levels above previous first ladies. However, the scenes in which McElhone is front and center are very believable and likely very possible.
Kirk’s chief of staff, acted by Italia Ricci, may be a stretch for acceptability as she looks far too young to have achieved the experience, skill and expertise needed for the job.
However, having a woman as a powerful influence on the president fits with the real life Kellyanne Conway.
Conway is reputed to have been the masterminding manager behind Trump during the campaign and likely thereafter, though she seems to be less visible in real life as one would expect. Again, perhaps truth is stranger than fiction.
Reality and art differ drastically
The TV show is tremendously entertaining to watch as viewers can have a lot of fun teasing out how target depictions differ from real life.
The biggest exception to this rule would be for the role of press secretary. Real life Sean Spicer is so over the top that if they tried to depict him as so in the TV series, the portrayal would be rejected immediately by every viewer as being absolutely unbelievable and impossible. Kal Penn plays the role of press secretary Seth Wright and his portrayal is toned down in comparison to Sean Spicer in real life. Again, it is very entertaining to watch Penn’s portrayal which is more believable than real life. Spicer is absolutely unbelievable, yet he is reality. Amazing.
The bottom line
This TV is really worth watching for one major reason: it is loads of fun to watch how Hollywood rewrites the script for what is happening in Washington today. Except for the terrorist/conspiracy premise of the show, the events of the TV show are far more believable than real life. Incredible as that may seem.