Fall TV Preview

Designated Survivor: How Three Showrunner Changes Have Led to 'Very Grounded,' Less Twisty Season 2

How different will ABC’s Designated Survivor look as it heads into Season 2 with its fourth showrunner to date?

TVLine invited ABC president Channing Dungey to revisit the drama’s path to this point, and how the latest showrunner change will shape its sophomore run.

“One of the things we realized is it is a very high-concept show, and we had to get the audience past that concept and get [Kiefer Sutherland’s Tom] Kirkman into the White House and all the rest of it,” Dungey said. “And as much as we love the twists and turns and the cliffhangers, what we’re really looking forward to exploring in Season 2 is some of the character relationships and some of the interpersonal dynamics in the White House.”

To recap: Amy B. Harris (Wicked City) originally served as showrunner on the series (which was created by David Guggenheim), only to be replaced in May 2016 upon its official pickup, with Jon Harmon Feldman (Blood & Oil). Feldman left in December, and was succeeded by Jeff Melvoin (Army Wives). This May, it was announced that The Good Wife grad Keith Eisner would seize the reins for Season 2.

“I do feel great about what Keith has brought to the table,” Dungey said. “The take that he has on the season feels very grounded, feels very timely and is very character-driven, which is [ABC’s] sweet spot.”

So, Season 2 will be more West Wing than 24…? More about what Kirkman does as POTUS than how (and at the hand of what ominous forces) he improbably came to hold the highest office in the land?

“I hesitate to compare the shows,” Dungey answered. “But I do think that we’re going to focus a little bit less on huge cliffhangers and a little bit more on the intimate character stories.”

Want more scoop on Designated Survivor, or for any other show? Email InsideLine@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. KLS says:

    Let’s hope that Eisner can right this ship. It came out with such promise, fizzled, then straightened out at the end. Four show showrunners in under a year might be a record. I thought that Dungey was going to turn to Alexi Hawley again. Thank goodness she went in another direction and has given Eisner a shot.

  2. ReneCat says:

    I never did understand what people were so upset about in the first season it was great! And as long as they keep it great and don’t turn it into Scandal I’ll be fine with THIS season as well. I don’t mind seeing the personal sides of the characters but let’s not forget that the bad guy is STILL out there and he’s carrying around some BIG security secrets .

  3. EJ says:

    I remember Kiefer claiming that the winter cliffhanger would “knock the audience off their asses.” I continue to believe the twist will be Tom’s wife Alex will be exposed (to the audience only) as an evil core conspirator whose machinations were crucial into getting him into the White House.

    • Cindy says:

      Yes, I’ve been suspicious of Tom’s wife throughout season 1. She’s nosy and butts into Tom’s professional meetings too often!
      Also, I hope the 2 kids will go stay with grandparents so this show can develop sophisticated themes.

  4. D. MYERS says:

    Just bring it back! We love it.

  5. JaeDavis says:

    Ah yes – Designated Survivor. The Ford commercial disguised as a TV show.

  6. Larc says:

    So they will stop action for a lot of silly chat about insignificant personal stuff that has nothing to do with important matters at hand? Far too many shows are doing that now. I suppose Designated Survivor feels compelled to jump on the bandwagon. Sad.

  7. WS says:

    Thats the wrong approach. The twisty conspiracy stuff was much more interesting than the “getting laws through congress” stuff.

  8. Wawasjohn says:

    Well that makes me not want to watch now, s1 was only good when it focused on the twists not what decisions the pres was gonna mate. I have madam secretary for that.

  9. Pam says:

    Not interested in watching it if the story is just going to be Kirkman being president. That’s boring to me. I like the conspiracies. Always thought the show was better as a action/thriller as opposed to a political drama. I’ll give it a chance but this is the wrong move for the show IMO.

    • herman1959 says:

      Ditto. I’ll also try it, but I’m not expecting that much.

      • Cindy says:

        I agree. For me, a political thriller is much more engaging than a family drama or a soapy relationship story. Also, season one’s “how a bill becomes a law” themes reminded me of a high school civics class. This show has potential if the writers keep the plotting tight and exciting, rather than maudlin and sentimental.

  10. Rick Ohnsman says:

    Please don’t turn this thrilling show into a soap opera! Spending time on “character development” at the expense of action and suspense will make it a yawner.

    • RichieS says:

      Not to mention the fact that they are playing against the strengths of their two leads Kiefer and Maggie Q.

  11. Lorraine says:

    Loved Season 1 and cannot wait for Season 2!! I don’t mind the twists & turns tho. Makes it more exciting. I can hardly stand the wait from week to week, let alone season to season…come on with it already!!!!!

  12. Pamela Kay McLaughlin says:

    I love that show hope Jack comes back when is the new season start

  13. Raymond (Joe) Moore says:

    I love the show. My family couldn’t wait for it each week. But I’m worried now that it us going to get boring. I do like character relations but the writing and the story line needs to keep going strong with surprises and mystery and things we would never expect, like season 1. Thanks for listening.