Revived 'Designated Survivor' shows how TV world has changed (2024)

NEW YORK (AP) — Anthony Edwards walks briskly through the White House in the opening scene of Netflix’s “Designated Survivor,” spraying comments and commands to the people he comes across as the camera wheels through the set to keep up.

Then it hits you: It’s Dr. Mark Greene of “ER” on “The West Wing”! The mind reels. One or both of the NBC series was nominated for the best drama Emmy every year between 1995 and 2006, symbolizing quality network television for its era. Here they are blended together, like chocolate and peanut butter.

That scene was admittedly an inside joke by Neal Baer, the top “Designated Survivor” producer who also worked on “ER” during its heyday. The now-canceled Netflix revival is also an illustration of how television has changed in a remarkably short time.

The drama built around Kiefer Sutherland’s character of Tom Kirkman, a Cabinet member suddenly thrust into the presidency after a terrorist attack, was cast aside by ABC after two seasons. Baer rebuilt it, adding new characters like Edwards’ White House chief of staff, and used the “ER” blueprint of interlocking story lines supporting the frame of Kirkman’s re-election campaign.

As is Netflix’s tradition, it didn’t explain why the show won’t get a fourth season when it released a statement last month thanking Sutherland, Baer and other creators for their efforts. Nor did it make available any viewership statistics that might have made the decision obvious. Even Baer hasn’t seen them.

“They were very upfront with me from the beginning that there was a very high bar to reach,” he said. “It wasn’t like I was stunned or shocked.”

The 10-episode season, which remains available on the streaming service, was crafted so the final episode could serve as either a satisfying conclusion or a jumping-off point for new episodes. Turned out it was the former.

Netflix offered Baer greater creative latitude than he would have gotten on network television, which he used in part to include story lines that featured a gay romance between an HIV-positive White House aide and a Secret Service agent, and another with a transsexual sister-in-law of the president.

What he missed was the ready-made audience of 20 million to 30 million people that “ER” routinely had. Although the new “Designated Survivor” got some positive reviews, and Baer relished a tweet where writer Stephen King called it “tough-minded, complex and involving,” getting attention in a crowded marketplace proved difficult. Baer was surprised, for example, that his stories didn’t create more of a ripple in the LGBTQ community.

“There is so much choice that you can gorge yourself only on what you like, and not get challenged,” he said.

If there’s a fault to the new “Designated Survivor,” it’s that it often seems bursting with stories, as if producers tried to fit a traditional network’s 22-episode season into 10 hours. There’s plenty to digest: cheating spouses, opioid abuse and corporate responsibility, genetic engineering by white supremacists, an FBI probe that leads to a character’s death, political dirty tricks, assisted suicide, ethnic identity in politics, romance and ambition.

It was a challenge to appeal to the show’s old audience, used to simpler story structures that focused chiefly on Kirkman, and also try to convince people who saw the old name that it was an entirely new series worth checking out, Baer said.

Still, excessive ambition is preferable to too little.

“I hope it’s not messaging,” Baer said. “I hope it is a show that tells a really great story. My intention was to tell the best stories I can, that were modern and path-breaking.”

Brian Lowry, television critic for CNN, said the show “didn’t really pop creatively.”

Lowry feels that “Designated Survivor” was essentially a better idea for a limited series, since it was hard to attract new viewers once the initial story of an inexperienced leader who suddenly becomes president wears off. The idea of Kirkman running for president as an idealistic independent also seems out-of-place for these turbulent, partisan times.

“I felt it was sort of naive,” he said.

Netflix also seems to have matured beyond the point of having to recycle ideas from old network shows, he said.

Baer found it an interesting experiment to bring back a show in this manner. He has no regrets.

“I got to do everything I wanted to do,” he said.

Revived 'Designated Survivor' shows how TV world has changed (2024)


Revived 'Designated Survivor' shows how TV world has changed? ›

The now-canceled Netflix revival is also an illustration of how television has changed in a remarkably short time. The drama built around Kiefer Sutherland's character of Tom Kirkman

Tom Kirkman
Thomas Kirkman was a mathematician and church minister. Thomas Kirkman may also refer to: Thomas Kirkman, fictional character in Fable: The Balverine Order. Tom Kirkman, fictional President of the United States in Designated Survivor. › Thomas_Kirkman_(disambiguation)
, a Cabinet member suddenly thrust into the presidency after a terrorist attack, was cast aside by ABC after two seasons.

Did Designated Survivor change networks? ›

Designated Survivor is an American political thriller drama television series created by David Guggenheim. It aired for three seasons, beginning on ABC and then exclusively on Netflix for the third and final season.

Is there a spin off of Designated Survivor? ›

Why did Netflix cancel Designated Survivor? ›

The streaming service watches the analytics carefully, and if a revival doesn't resonate with the audience, the service is quick to cast it off. That apparently was the case for Designated Survivor.

Why did so many characters leave Designated Survivor? ›

“But the reality is, because the contracts were so complicated and different from network television to Netflix etc, they didn't book a lot of the actors that were on the show, and they took other jobs, and I don't blame them for a second for that.”

Why was season 3 of Designated Survivor so bad? ›

However Netflix ruined the show in S3. Scenes were more graphic and even the most genial characters became foul-mouthed - including the kid. Suddenly making everyone like this was so unrealistic and demoralising. Gave up watching.

Why did ABC drop Designated Survivor? ›

In the absence of a clear narrative road map for a third season and declining poll numbers, “Designated Survivor” couldn't recover from the loss of its base. Like politics, primetime TV is a fickle business.

What should I watch on Netflix after Designated Survivor? ›

Is Chuck in Designated Survivor? ›

Epstein played "geeky FBI computer nerd" Chuck Russink in the American TV show Designated Survivor (2016–2018).

Is Designated Survivor season 4 coming out? ›

As of writing, Designated Survivor isn't expected to return for Season 4, but one has to wonder if the cast issues could be resolved to bring it back for more episodes on Netflix and continue the story. Star Kiefer Sutherland is busy wrapping up production on Clint Eastwood's next directorial endeavor, Juror No.

Why did Hannah leave Designated Survivor? ›

The fan-favorite uncovered a hidden biolab, and was exposed to poisonous gas that specifically targeted people of color. It was a harrowing exit for the character, and Maggie Q has addressed the exit for the first time.

What happened to Emily on Designated Survivor? ›

At the start of Season Three, Italia Ricci returns as her character, Emily Rhodes. This is notable, because former stars of the show, such as Lyor Boone and Kendra Daynes were not present for the season. She has quit to take care of her mother in Florida, although Seth wants her to come back and visit the White House.

Did Designated Survivor conclude? ›

The third and final season of the American political drama series Designated Survivor was ordered on September 5, 2018.

Why did Mike Ritter leave Designated Survivor? ›

The character of Mike Ritter became a fan favorite and Garrett remained with the show through the whole first two seasons, until its initial cancelation. After the show was picked up by Netflix, Garrett confirmed on Twitter that after "lengthy negotiations" he would not return due to budget constraints.

Why was Alex killed off in Designated Survivor? ›

But why did they kill off Alex? Isn't that a little extreme? “Yeah, look, I think there were other opportunities for an actress we love, and we knew she wanted to do the cable series,” Keith Eisner told TV Guide about the decision.

Why didn t Mike come back to Designated Survivor? ›

Mike also helps reassure the staffer, once they know that her brother is safe. She thanks him later. Mike did not appear in any episode of Season 3 due to budget and creative changes, according to the actor. It is unlikely that he will return to the show.

What network did Designated Survivor start on? ›

The first season of the American political drama series Designated Survivor began airing on September 21, 2016 on ABC. The series was ordered straight to series by ABC in December 2015, with a formal announcement of 13 episodes in May 2016.

Why did Kendra and Lyor leave Designated Survivor? ›

"There were lengthy negotiations between Designated Survivor and Netflix [and] unfortunately myself and a couple of others fell victim to the budget sword," he wrote, adding the hashtag "#actorslife." We hate when budget and creative changes end up with our favorite characters getting cut!

What streaming service has Designated Survivor? ›

Right now you can watch Designated Survivor on Netflix or Netflix basic with Ads.

Will Designated Survivor return to Netflix? ›

Designated Survivor: Cancelled by Netflix, No Season Four for Kiefer Sutherland Series - IMDb. President Kirkman's term is over. Last year, ABC cancelled the Designated Survivor TV show after two low-rated seasons. Netflix picked up the series for a third season but has now decided not to order a fourth season.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Gregorio Kreiger

Last Updated:

Views: 5484

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (57 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Gregorio Kreiger

Birthday: 1994-12-18

Address: 89212 Tracey Ramp, Sunside, MT 08453-0951

Phone: +9014805370218

Job: Customer Designer

Hobby: Mountain biking, Orienteering, Hiking, Sewing, Backpacking, Mushroom hunting, Backpacking

Introduction: My name is Gregorio Kreiger, I am a tender, brainy, enthusiastic, combative, agreeable, gentle, gentle person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.