Fall TV Preview
Designated Survivor Pilot Preview

Fall TV First Impression: Designated Survivor

The broadcast networks have nearly 20 shows debuting this fall, including Michael Weatherly’s NCIS follow-up, new sitcoms from Kevin James and Matt LeBlanc, and the story of MLB’s first female player. To help you prep for it all, TVLine is offering First Impressions of the not-for-review pilots.

Next up on our list….

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THE SHOW | ABC’s Designated Survivor (Wednesdays at 10/9c, premiere date TBA)

THE COMPETITION | NBC’s Chicago P.D. and CBS’ Code Black

THE CAST | Kiefer Sutherland (24), Natascha McElhone (Californication), Maggie Q (Nikita), Kal Penn (House), Adan Canto (The Following), Italia Ricci (Chasing Life), LaMonica Garrett (Sons of Anarchy) and Tanner Buchanan (The Fosters)

THE SET-UP | Following a catastrophic attack on Washington, D.C., low-level (and about-to-be-fired) HUD Secretary Tom Kirkman becomes President of the United States.

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THE FIRST IMPRESSION | I’m a longtime 24 fan and a sucker for White House dramas on screens big and smaller. So damn, Designated Survivor is right in my sweet spot. But on its own merits, this pilot is loaded with promise, laying the foundation for the engaging, sometimes Dave-like story of a Regular-ish Joe learning the ropes as leader of the free world. Yes, Sutherland’s 24 legacy will have you wishing he’d just pistol-whip the condescending Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but it also imbues Kirkman with an instant root-for quality. Penn (who’s also a consultant on the series) gets some nice moments as the speech writer who ultimately helps steer his new POTUS in the direction of greatness not-awfulness, while Maggie Q takes charge of the FBI side of things, investigating the terrorist attack that turned D.C. on its ear.

Yeah, the West Wing fan in me would prefer John Amos as the CJCS, and be forewarned, Tom and wife Alex (a warm McElhone) do have a Teenage TV Son, and he’s harboring all kinds of secrets. Side note: If Episode 2 doesn’t pick up precisely where the pilot leaves off, I will throw things.

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | Sutherland is a draw, but those tuning in to see “President Jack Bauer” may come away a bit disappointed. (That said, I’m pretty sure Kirkman at one point makes the Iranian ambassador piddle himself.) Still, the premise is innately noisy and sell-able, and with the barely renewed Code Black undergoing significant cast transplants, there’s opportunity here to grab some easy 10 o’clock eyeballs opposite P.D.

RELATED Fall TV Poll: Which New Shows Are You Most Looking Forward To?

Watch a trailer for Designated Survivor, then vote in our poll below.