Friday, February 10, 2017

'Designated Survivor' by David Guggenheim

10 February 2017

I hadn’t realised it was a real thing but Wikipedia tells us that “In the United States, a designated survivor (or designated successor) is an individual in the presidential line of succession, usually a member of the United States Cabinet, who is arranged to be at a physically distant, secure, and undisclosed location when the President and the country's other top leaders (e.g., Vice President and Cabinet members) are gathered at a single location, such as during State of the Union addresses and presidential inaugurations. This is intended to guarantee continuity of government in the event of a catastrophic occurrence that kills the President and many officials in the presidential line of succession, such as a mass shooting or bombing. If such an event occurred, killing both the President and Vice President, the surviving official highest in the line, possibly the designated survivor, would become the Acting President of the United States under the Presidential Succession Act.”   

David Guggenheim’s TV series ‘Designated Survivor’ (which I have just finished watching on Netflix) uses this premise to create a very exciting political thriller. When the Capitol building is destroyed by a terrorist attack during the State of the Union address, the President and the whole of Congress are killed. Designated Survivor Tom Kirkman, the lowly Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, is suddenly being sworn in as the new President of the United States. Not only does he have to work out how to govern a country whose entire federal government has disappeared, President Kirkman also has to deal with the devastating aftermath of a massive terror attack on Washington. Keifer Sutherland plays Kirkman as an honest man thrust into the limelight and Maggie Q is the FBI agent who believes someone other than the Islamic terrorist group that claims responsibility might actually be behind the bombing. The first episode of ‘Designated Survivor’ is truly thrilling and the parallels between the fictional story and the White House in 2017 (such as when the President is asked to consider banning all immigration into the USA to guard against terrorists) are scarily close. ‘Designated Survivor’ is both a political drama that bears comparison with ‘Borgen’ (reviewed here in February 2013) and a thriller. I’m looking forward to the second series.

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