Kiefer Sutherland made his return to the small screen with “Designated Survivor” but before that, his first small screen encounter was in the FOX television series “24” where he played a different character; Jack Bauer. What do the two shows have in common? Well, Keifer Sutherland is the main star in both and they do have a wide range of characters and separate but overarching plots… Where the two shows separate each other is through age and format…
“24” is a serialized action show mainly focusing on the efforts to stop a terrorist plot while “Designated Survivor” is a drama about a person thrusted into the line of US presidency who has to deal with internal politics and US politics while trying to fix the country. “24” has had 8 seasons and a couple of spinoffs while “Designated Survivor” only has 2 episodes and just premiered recently… Despite that, here’s why “Designated Survivor” is better than “24”.
1. The Main Character
For those of you who watched “24”, you’ll know Jack Bauer as this person who moved around a lot, did lots of stunts, shot a lot of people and rarely showed any emotion. Jack Bauer is a good action hero but not a good character despite being surrounded by loss and a conflict between his family and his job; Thomas Kirkland feels like a direct 180 from Jack Bauer in that he shows empathy, compassion, conflict, fear and uncertainty all in one neatly put together package.
“Designated Survivor” is Kiefer Sutherland’s evolution as a small screen actor given that he could do more things than ever before… This is more of a “person stuck in a situation he can’t get out of” rather than a “person who can shoot his way out of any situation” and that leads to more potential, more situations, more of everything really… It really feels refreshing for fans of Kiefer Sutherland to not see him as the action hero and more of a regular everyday human being which I feel will really drive the series.
2. The Concept
Let’s face it, “24” was not a deep series; you had some recurring elements but the feeling is all the same, stop terrorists and make sure that CTU does not fall into despair. “Designated Survivor” has all the elements going for it; tensions in America, stunning relevance to the landscape which exists today, politics which feel as fresh as they did 10 years ago which is really saying something about the realism of the series. You’ll never see Jack Bauer take on a situation like police going against people of color or trying to rebuild a country which makes “Designated Survivor” all the more appealing to today’s TV viewer.
3. The Lack of Gimmicks
Even though all TV shows have gimmicks; this one seems to be more grounded and less interested in trying to make you watch through the concept of a “murder of the week” or a “who’s going to be the eventual killer”. While there is an ongoing plot to find out who did this, that takes a backseat to the privy of human nature, the conflicting nature of the political world and a person who’s radically different then these “politicians”.
“Designated Survivor” is also an example of the times where people care more about characters and story than they do about concepts and mystery. This isn’t 2006 where you can draw viewers easily with a new concept or a new gimmick; you actually have to work to gain their attention and with no consistent gimmick and an ever changing concept. “Designated Survivor” has more headroom to work with than “24” which was limited by it’s ticking clock.
4. The Possibilities
In an ever changing world where opinions never stay the same and the future is just within our grasp, “Designated Survivor” is in the perfect situation to take advantage of it… “24” was as patriotic as it can get while “Designated Survivor” doesn’t exactly know how to take itself patriotic despite it’s patriotic themes. If you ever watched the news, followed politics, followed pop culture or followed anything than you know that any of that is ripe for the taking; “Designated Survivor” is primed to take that and well, provide the mainstream with an introduction into the ever changing world…
It’s world has multiple news channels, multiple points of view, an eerie sense of surrealism and something that reminds you of home; it’s a world that’s based off of our world with a few twists here and there and it’s kind of like the latest seasons of “South Park”, it reflects the current state of humanity as we know it and informs people of actions they can take in order to change the country, if not the world and make sure it goes better for future generations.
While “Designated Survivor” is still a new show, it has proven to be addictive, fun to watch and well… critically acclaimed. I don’t know if it’s going to burn out midway or actually prove to be one of television’s greats but in this day and age where TV entertainment is constantly evolving in quality, choice and quantity; we’re looking back at TV shows during an era where cable used to be dominant and well… we’re realizing that they don’t hold up as well as they should have.
“24” is a good show but not a “great” one or even an “exceptional” one… “Designated Survivor” may mark Kiefer Sutherland’s return to the small screen but it marks a renaissance for TV, one that it will have to maintain and prove along the course of it’s eventual run and yes, it’s better than “24”.