So far, audiences are tuning in to see Sutherland's steady hand. In addition to impressive ratings for the premiere, the show also set a new record for DVR viewership after its premiere. In these challenging political times, people want to watch Kiefer Sutherland be a cool president. But will that goodwill last? Or will President Jack Bauer become a more problematic figure?
It's easy to forget that 24, now fondly remembered by many as a crackerjack thriller about a guy having a series of very bad days, was also a political lightning rod when it aired, drawing criticism for the way it portrayed torture, due process, and Muslim-Americans. In comparison, Designated Survivor seems designed to be as politically inoffensive as possible: President Kirkman spends part of each episode scolding trigger-happy generals, quieting racial unrest in the country, and reassuring frightened Americans that everything is going to be OK. The nation's responsible dad is home. It's a far cry from Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood urinating on his father's grave.
If Tom Kirkman resembles any TV president, it's probably Martin Sheen's grandfatherly Josiah Bartlet from The West Wing. But where Bartlet was a book-quoting fuddy-duddy with a Ph.D. in economics, Kirkman is a CrossFit warrior in Warby Parker glasses. He may look like a pushover, but, when the big dogs threaten him, he barks back. Hopefully, as the show evolves, we'll get to see him bite.