The political conspiracy drama began its run as one of ABC’s most promising. The network screened the entire opening act at its 2016 upfront presentation where Sutherland received a huge ovation. In its first months on the air, Designated Survivor drew large audiences, setting DVR lift records and snagging the Critics’ Choice award for most exciting new series in its first season.
The series saw ratings declines in Season 2 but continued to be helped by strong delayed increases. Meanwhile, the series underwent a behind-the-scene turnover with a slew of showrunner changes over its two-season run. If renewed for a third season, Designated Survivor was going to bring in again a new showrunner — its fifth.
Designated Survivor marked Sutherland’s return to TV after 24. Buoyed by his star power, the series was a strong international seller, bringing in money to The Mark Gordon Company (now Entertainment One), which was the leading studio, and ABC Studios.
Sutherland starred as Tom Kirkman, a lower-level cabinet member who is suddenly appointed President of the United States after a catastrophic attack on the US Capitol during the State of the Union. Kirkman now finds himself thrust into a role he never wanted. He must struggle to keep the country and his own family from falling apart, while navigating the highly-volatile political arena and while leading the search to find who is responsible for the attack.
In addition to Sutherland, the series also starred Natasha McElhone, Adan Canto, Italia Ricci, LaMonica Garrett, Tanner Buchanan, Kal Penn, and Maggie Q.
David Guggenheim created the series and executive producdr. Simon Kinberg, Mark Gordon, Jon Harmon Feldman, Nick Pepper. Suzan Bymel, Aditya Sood, and Sutherland also executive produced. The Mark Gordon Company and ABC Studios produced.