Why 'Designated Survivor' Is The Most Underrated (And Terrifying) Show On TV

​​Netflix's new drama is an under-the-radar triumph

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Imagine, it's Brexit day. Theresa May has summoned every British politician to Parliament to watch her finally pull the plug on Europe. She jostles her papers and clears her throat. Then a bomb tears through the chamber, killing everyone inside: the Prime Minister, her cabinet, the shadow cabinet, everyone.

Who will lead the country? Who will push Brexit through? No, no, don't worry, health secretary Jeremy Hunt stayed at home for this exact opportunity. And now it has come. Now he is prime minister. Obviously, he has absolutely no idea what he's doing, but he gives it a shot anyway. This is his moment, his only way in. Now he must prove to the world that he isn't, in fact, useless.

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We don't have that in the UK, but it's a real thing in America. He (or she) is called the Designated Survivor – the guy who stays at home in a tracksuit during the president's state of the union address, on the off chance everyone else gets blown to bits. And now, finally, someone's made a TV show about it. And it's bloody great.

Designated Survivor, ABC's much-hyped new Netflix drama, stars Kiefer Sutherland as the Bambi-in-the-headlights Designated Survivor, an insecure, out-of-favour housing minister thrust, vomiting, into the most powerful office of the Free World.

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It's basically 24 meets King Ralph, with more furrowed brows and less John Goodman.

One of ABC's selling points is that it could actually happen; that a hapless, inexperienced political outsider could take the nation's reigns at a time of national crisis. That said, you could argue it's already happening. The major difference between that and reality is that Kiefer Sutherland's character Tom Kirkman is the kind of president America probably wants, deep down.

Not at first, of course. At first he comes across as nothing more than just a proper nice bloke. He wears giant Penfold glasses – a useful prop to fiddle with when Kiefer wants to let viewers know he's nervous – and pukes under pressure. He turns down an opportunity to bomb Iran and says things like, "You can't make promises that you won't be able to keep," to which his wife responds, "We're in Washington. They're the only promises we're allowed to make." Yeah, take that real-world Washington.

He's also confronted with some pertinent issues along the way. Not only must he deal with a host bellicose, conspiring generals who want to overthrow him to establish martial law, but he must ferret out the culprits of the attack, prevent a race war from breaking out across America, all while dealing with a drug dealer son. It is as fun as it is utterly ridiculous.

It's also intriguing because, despite the joke-shop glasses disguise, Kiefer's President Kirkman is not Jack Bauer. On the contrary, he is a bit of a wet lunch. Though, I couldn't escape the feeling during the first episode that it was a matter of time before Kiefer unzipped the Bauer bodybag and growled something about how everyone needs to just let him do his job. The signs are there from the start: the gravelly one-liners, the dramatic look-down-then-up pauses when he's got something difficult to say to someone (classic Sutherland, watch and you'll see).

There's even a scene in the first episode when he's handed the nuclear codes and asks if he needs to give his fingerprints or a retinal scan. Everyone in the room rolls their eyes as if to say, "Huh, Jack Bauer would never have asked such a stupid fucking question."

Sorry White House flunkies, Jack Bauer is dead and he's not coming back, so we'll all have to make do with Tom Kirkman. He's no longer the straight-talking, straight-shooting maverick of CPU, he is president. He's developed a personality, a backstory. He finally grew up. It could be worse – you could have Jeremy Hunt.