Whether you’re a fan of Kiefer Sunderland, an avid political nerd, or just craving some good old thriller action, Designated Survivor might just be the show for you. The title presents its viewers with a dangerous, yet highly possible ‘what-if’ scenario. Designated Survivor, though canceled after its third season, is still loved by many for its unique plot and story.

While the show isn’t very critically acclaimed, nor has it received many awards, this title was extremely popular during its time. It was awarded Most Exciting TV Series by TV Guide and Most Exciting New Series by Critics’ Choice Television Awards in 2016. Read on to learn more about the show’s rise and fall over the years.


Whenever the President of the United States holds the State of the Union Address, one cabinet member is taken to a location undisclosed to the public. The reason for this is so that in the event of a disaster or catastrophe that renders the President and everyone in the line of succession unable to serve, that cabinet member is deemed as the new President. This member is known as the designated survivor, hence the title for the show.

This story involves Tom Kirkman, a cabinet member who isn’t really held in high regard by his peers. He was the designated survivor during the former President’s State of the Union. A bombing attack kills everyone in the Capitol and Congress, leaving Tom as the next person in line, and therefore the next President of the United States. It’s up to Tom to deal with the aftermath of the worst attack since 9/11 and prepare for the threats that are yet to come.

Cast and characters

Kiefer Sutherland – Tom Kirkman

Adan Canto – Aaron Shore

Italia Ricci – Emily Rhodes

Kal Penn – Seth Wright

Maggie Q – Hannah Wells

LaMonica – Garrett Mike Ritter 

Natascha McElhone – Alex Kirkman

Jake Epstein – Chuck Russink

Paulo Costanzo – Lyor Boone 

Zoe McLellan – Kendra Daynes

Mckenna Grace – Penny Kirkman

Ben Lawson – Damian Rennett

Filming locations

Designated Survivor wasn’t the easiest show to film from a logistical perspective. The lead writer behind Designated Survivor, David Guggenheim, is based in New York, while the writer’s room for the show was based in Los Angeles, California. To top it all off, the show wasn’t even produced in the United States, despite taking place in the U.S. The show was actually filmed in Canada, instead.

There are two known locations in Canada that Designated Survivor filmed in. Toronto is the more well-known one, while Cambridge was also a film location. Both places are situated in Ontario.


The trailer for the first season of Designated Survivor is gripping and thrilling. On YouTube, it’s amassed almost 7 million views at the time of writing, and it has over 20k likes under its belt, too. For a 2-minute trailer of a 3-season show, that’s definitely a lot of views.

Viewers who watch the trailer are greeted with an aerial shot of Washington D.C. and the U.S. Capitol at night. The scene then cuts to Tom, who is relaxing in an undisclosed location with his wife, eating food and watching the State of the Union by themselves. During this time, Tom’s daughter gives him a call, asking him when he’s coming home. Tom, being a loving father, jokes about his daughter being past her bedtime, and tells her to go to bed.

Suddenly, while Tom and his wife are watching the State of the Union, the broadcast is abruptly cut, and Tom immediately gets a call from what seems to be a government official, with him stating that the broadcast “went blank too”. Then, Tom is greeted by a group of security officers that urge him to put his phone down. Not sure of what is going on, Tom opens a nearby curtain and peers through the window, only to be greeted by the sight of an explosion where the Capitol once stood.

Tom is rushed out of his undisclosed location, and it is revealed by the security officer that both the Capitol and Congress were attacked and that Tom is the new President of the United States. This shocks many of his peers and colleagues, who believe that Tom is not the right person for the job. In fact, one of them states that Tom was fired by the President himself on the morning of the attack.

The remainder of the trailer involves Tom working with various government officials, and trying to do what he can to serve his country. He is even confronted by one of his colleagues who openly admits that he is not right for the job. The trailer ends with Tom taking the oath of office, and him uttering the famous phrase, “So help me God.”


Production plans were an issue throughout Designated Survivor’s time on air. The first two seasons were produced by ABC Studios, Kinberg Genre, and The Mark Gordon Company. After the first two seasons, ABC announced that the show was cancelled, leaving many fans disappointed and longing for more. 

A glimpse of hope appeared in the form of a deal between ABC and Netflix. Alongside Entertainment One, Netflix was able to pick up Designated Survivor and aired the third season on their platform. Production of the show’s third season was led by Entertainment One. The revival was short-lived, though, as Netflix ended up cancelling the show right after the third season.

Episodes and reception

With only 21 and 22 episodes for the show’s first and second seasons respectively, and a mere 10 for the third, Designated Survivor is a relatively short TV series. The show managed to attract the attention of over 10 million viewers on its first episode, which prompted the production of a second season just 8 days after its first airing. The viewership dropped immensely after the first episode’s success, however, and the Season 2 finale only garnered around 3 and a half million views.

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