‘Designated Survivor’ is the latest series depicting machinations in Washington D.C. against an increasingly chaotic world. The hook of the series is that the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Tom Kirkman played by Kiefer Sutherland, finds himself president of the United States after the Capitol Building explodes, taking out the president, most of the cabinet, Congress, and much of the rest of the government in the worst terrorist attack since 9/11. Unfortunately, the pilot episode flirts with the hoariest cliché of them all, a crazy, right-wing general who wants to start blowing things and people up without discrimination before all the facts are known.

Sutherland is great as Kirkland, a character quite unlike Jack Bauer, a man who is confused and scared at suddenly being thrust into a position that he is ill-prepared for. However, with the help of a sympathetic speech writer, played by Kal Penn (who also consults for the show thanks to his previous job in the Obama White House), he begins to find steel inside him. In the midst of the catastrophe, the Iranians sortie their navy to close the Straits of Hormuz. While the general we mentioned before wants to launch a full-scale attack, the newly sworn in President Kirkman threatens the Iranian Ambassador that he will launch said attack unless the ships are withdrawn to port.

One gets the impression that Iran, a country that is contemptuous of the United States in real life, complies. However, the general is seen plotting a coup because he thinks the new president is too week.

Another standout performance is executed by Maggie Q, who plays an FBI agent who is in charge of investigating the bombing of the Capitol. The deed, it is implied, was likely not carried out by the usual Middle East suspects.

Please God let it not be the Hollywood cliché cabal of right-wing businessmen and military officers.

Kirkman has some family issues that he is not aware of yet. His teenage son is dealing drugs at a club when the Secret Service swoops in and carries him off to the White House. Talk about a White House scandal in the making!

All in all, “Designated Survivor” has a lot of potential, but is teetering on the edge of being undermined by liberal political clichés.

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