A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Designated Survivor is a political drama about a government official who becomes president after a deadly attack. Scenes are set in the aftermath of an explosion, with buildings in cinders and fire; there are no bodies, blood, or gore. Expect acts of military aggression and discussion of nuclear war. Mild profanity includes "hell" and "asses." A teen character sells bags of an unnamed drug in a club; adults drink wine in a bar. On the mildly educational side, viewers may learn new things about the workings of the American government, including how items get added to a president's agenda, presidential succession, and how bills are passed.
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What's the story?
Yesterday, Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) was the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and about to be demoted to an ambassadorship. Today, he's President Tom Kirkman -- the DESIGNATED SURVIVOR who must assume the presidency after an explosion kills the president, vice president, cabinet, and Congress. There's not much left of the U.S. government, and everyone around Tom has doubts about his ability to lead: his speechwriter Seth (Kal Penn), his chief of staff (Italia Ricci), and even his otherwise loving wife, Alex (Natascha McElhone). Tom didn't ask for this role, and the whole world is watching America to see what happens next.
Is it any good?
Stuffed -- maybe overstuffed -- with dramatic plot points, this political series has plenty of potential and will appeal to fans of 24 and The West Wing. Other viewers' opinions of this show will depend upon their tolerance/love of scenes in which characters sit in a room having tense conversations about treason and speech-writing. Certainly the show's central premise has zing: After Kirkman learns he's to be thrust into the national spotlight, he's dragged to the White House and into a press conference within an hour. The camera slows down, voices echo. It's a nightmarish place to be, one viewers can easily imagine.
Parents who are political buffs may enjoy watching Designated Survivor with teens, as plot twists about terrorism and plotting officials may spark conversations about the ways in which our government operates; a storyline revolving around an FBI agent (Maggie Q) investigating the attack may inspire not-as-comfortable conversations about terrorism. And a subplot on the Kirkhams' teen son, Leo (Tanner Buchanan), who sells something in little bags at D.C. clubs, may make both parents and teens a wee bit uncomfortable.