Netflix is reportedly in talks to renew Designated Survivor, following its cancellation by ABC.
The political thriller stars Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman, a cabinet member who is unexpected appointed President of the United States after a bombing of the Capital during the State of the Union address. After two seasons and four showrunners, though, the series was struggling to balance its tone, which was a combination of West Wing and 24. With ratings also dropping, and Kiefer Sutherland wanting the production to move to Los Angeles from its current base of Toronto, ABC decided to cancel the show.
ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said that the decision was “a hard one”, noting that the show “did well in delayed viewing but its Live+Same Day delivery in the 10 PM hour had become challenging”.
However, the strong performance on catch-up measurements would be a natural fit for Netflix, where scheduling is an irrelevance. Indeed, Netflix’s SVOD deal with ABC made the production profitable for its home network – the question is whether Netflix would want to take on the whole thing itself.
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that talks “are underway” for a potential third run – which would see a fifth showrunner come on board to replace Keith Eisner (The Good Wife). Deadline also reports that Netflix is mulling a Season 3 pick-up.
Producer eOne has already issued a statement confirming that it is “in active discussions with other parties for further series of the show”.
There is still a long way to go for this to actually happen, with no official word from Netflix and Deadline’s sources noting that a deal is “still far from done”. One complicating factor, in addition to Sutherland having final approval on scripts and the appointment of showrunner, is that Hulu currently has the streaming rights to the programme in the USA.
Nonetheless, Netflix has a history of stepping in to rescue shows such as Arrested Development and Longmire, as well as taking on co-productions such as Travelers as solo Netflix originals. This is also the season for surprise renewals, after NBC rescued Brooklyn Nine-Nine following a cancellation by Fox, and Fox revived Last Man Standing a year after ABC gave it the axe.
Designated Survivor cancelled after two seasons
12th May 2018
Designated Survivor has been cancelled after two seasons.
The political thriller stars Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman, a cabinet member who is unexpectedly appointed President of the United States after a bombing of the Capital during the State of the Union address. Struggling to adjust to the pressures of his new job, as well as solve the unravelling conspiracy behind the attack, the show plays out as a hybrid of The West Wing and 24 – combined with the star power of Sutherland, that was enough to see Netflix snap up the rights to the show as an exclusive in the UK.
The series, though, has suffered a run of difficulties behind the scenes. David Guggenheim created the show, with Amy Harris set as showrunner. Before Season 1 got off the ground, though, Jon Harmon Feldman replaced her. He then stepped down halfway through, with Jeff Melvoin taking over. By the time Season 2 came around, Keith Eisner stepped into their shoes, with Neal Baer then reportedly being lined up for a potential third season – a hiring that would have given the programme its fifth showrunner.
That repeatedly shifting creative team showed on screen, with the tone and focus of the series ranging from conspiracy thriller to family drama. Sutherland’s contract, meanwhile, gave him veto power over the showrunner, and also called for the production to move to Los Angeles for Season 3, after two runs in Toronto. With Season 2’s ratings dropping, and the third season’s move likely to raise production costs, ABC announced on Friday that it would not be renewing the show.
Season 2 will conclude on Thursday 17th May, with the finale arriving on Netflix UK within 24 hours of its US broadcast. You can catch up with our reviews of Designated Survivor here.
Michael J. Fox joins Designated Survivor
11th January 2018
Michael J. Fox is joining Designated Survivor’s second season.
The political drama, which stars Kiefer Sutherland, returned for its second season last year, with each episode arriving on Netflix in the UK.
David Guggenheim’s show sees Sutherland play Tom Kirkman, a low-level cabinet member who is appointed the “designated survivor” during the President’s State of the Union address – a role that leaves him locked safely away, just in case something should happen to the President during his speech. When an attack on the US Capital actually does happen, Kirkman finds himself unexpectedly appointed POTUS, struggling to keep the country (as well as his own family) from falling apart, all the while navigating the fallout from the attack and leading the search to find who is responsible.
As Kirkman continues his stint in the White House for Season 2, the series is ramping up the topical storylines with a new character played by none other than Michael J. Fox. The former star of Back to the Future and ABC’s political sitcom Spin City (pictured above) will join the show as Ethan West, a high-flying attorney hired by the cabinet to investigate former President Cornelius Moss’ alleged leak of classified information.
Joining for a five-episode arc, he’s described by Deadline as “a hyper-competitive, wily, relentless lawyer who plays his cards close to the vest and whose only allegiance is to his mandate — a single-mindedness that makes him an unpredictable and formidable adversary for President Tom Kirkman”.
Designated Survivor will return to our screens for the second half of Season 2 on 29th February, within 24 hours of its debut in the US.
Designated Survivor’s First Lady will be departing the show
1st October 2017
Designated Survivor’s First Lady is preparing to depart the show.
Variety reports that Natascha McElhone, who plays the wife of Tom Kirkman in the ABC political drama, is all set to leave the series, after signing on to star in a different programme: The First, over at Hulu.
McElhone, who has appeared in Ronin, Californication and Solaris, has been in Designated Survivor from the start, as Alex sees her unqualified, low-level cabinet member husband promoted to President of the United States, following an attack on the Capitol. With the focus increasingly upon the conspiracy connected to the terror attack, Alex played a decreasing role in the first season.
The appeal of a new project, then, is perhaps easy to see, especially as Hulu enjoys huge awards success with The Handmaid’s Tale. In signing for the new show, she will swap Sutherland for Sean Penn, who co-stars in the programme, which is about the first manned mission to Mars. McElhone’s character isn’t clear yet, although Variety reports that she will play the CEO of the company funding the mission.
The First is created by Beau Willimon (House of Cards) and produced by Westward Productions, the indie studio founded by Willimon and his producing partner, Jordan Tappis. Hulu ordered the drama straight to series in May, with Channel 4 to broadcast the show in the UK and Ireland. Production will begin this year ahead of a 2018 premiere, which means that we can expect McElhone to leave Designated Survivor in the first half of its second season. What form that departure will take, and whether Alex will be recast with another actor, is something we’ll have to wait to find out.
New episodes of Designated Survivor Season 2 arrive on Netflix UK every Thursday, within 24 hours of their US broadcast. You can read our review of Episode 1 here.
Designated Survivor renewed for Season 2
13th May 2017
Designated Survivor has been renewed for a second season.
The show, which stars Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman, a cabinet member who is unexpected appointed President of the United States after a bombing of the Capital during the State of the Union address. Struggling to adjust to the pressures of his new job, as well as solve the unravelling conspiracy behind the attack, the show plays out as a hybrid of The West Wing and 24.
The series has not had the smoothest ride behind the camera, with the show already on its third showrunner. Nonetheless, the programme has proven a success among US audiences, with an average of 6 million viewers per episode, significantly increasingly its viewership in delayed viewing via catch-up services. In the UK, Netflix has snapped up the exclusive rights to the series, with episodes arriving within 24 hours of their US debut. (You can expect Season 2 to do exactly the same.)
With one episode left to go in Season 1, Variety reports that ABC has already ordered a sophomore run. Indeed, confidence in the project’s renewal was strong enough for The Good Wife’s former EP Keith Eisner to be hired as showrunner for Season 2, which will bring the show to its fourth showrunner.
Designated Survivor will return in March for Part 2
15th February 2017
Designated Survivor will return in March for Part 2 of its first season, we can confirm.
Netflix snapped up the UK TV rights to the Kiefer Sutherland series last year, with episodes arriving on the streaming service shortly after their US debut. David Guggenheim’s show sees Sutherland return to the small screen as Tom Kirkman, a low-level cabinet member who is appointed the “designated survivor” during the President’s State of the Union address – a role that leaves him locked safely away, just in case something should happen to the President during his speech. When an attack on the US Capital actually does happen, Kirkman finds himself unexpectedly appointed POTUS, struggling to keep the country (as well as his own family) from falling apart, all the while navigating the fallout from the attack and leading the search to find who is responsible.
“Somewhere along the line between Episode 1 and 5, Designated Survivor has gone from enjoyably bad to genuinely rather good – an unexpected, but far from unwelcome, surprise,” we wrote in our review of the first season’s first half. “The result is an ensemble thriller that feels increasingly sure-footed in a way that suits its blossoming President – a burgeoning confidence that easily wins your vote.”
Season 1 continues throughout December until reaching a climactic cliffhanger in Episode 10. Now, Netflix has revealed that Episode 11 will be released in the UK on Thursday 9th March, beginning the concluding part of the show’s maiden run. Episodes will then arrive weekly within hours of their US broadcast.
The show will return with a new showrunner at the helm: Jon Harmon Feldman stepped down at the mid-season break, with Jeff Melvoin stepping into his shoes.
Designated Survivor signs up third showrunner
6th December 2016
Designated Survivor is barely halfway through its opening season, but the series is already on its third showrunner, after its second departed this week.
Deadline reports that showrunner Jon Harmon Feldman has stepped down from ABC’s political drama. The series, which stars Kiefer Sutherland, follows Tom Kirkman, a politician who finds himself unexpectedly promoted to President of the USA, after a terrorist attack wipes out the current President and his administration – a scenario that is as promising as it is surprisingly topical. Production, though, hasn’t been the smoothest ride: Amy B. Harris, the programme’s first showrunner, reportedly departed after its pilot, due to creative differences when the series was given a full season order. Feldman, her replacement, though, hasn’t lasted that long: Episode 8 premieres this Thursday on Netflix, which had snapped up the exclusive international rights. He’ll officially depart after Episode 10
Why? That’s not entirely clear. Creative differences seem unlikely, as Feldman is negotiating a two-year development deal with ABC, so sour grapes aren’t evident. It may, however, be due to declining ratings – the latest episode drew 11.92 million US viewers, down from 17.71 million views for its debut. The drama playing out in the real life US election, which has also seen an inexperienced man promoted to President, may well be distracting from the fictional thrills, despite the fact that the show’s quality has improved on Feldman’s watch.
ABC, nonetheless, isn’t wasting any time in appointing his replacement: Jeff Melvoin, former Exec Producer of Lifetime’s Army Wives, which was also produced by the network. Indeed, the show shows no sign of finishing any time soon, following Netflix’s multi-season deal and Sutherland still on board in the lead. Curiously, Deadline notes that Kiefer has final say on all of the programme’s scripts. So, in a way, the showrunner has never left.