While fans hang on to every twisted moment of ABC’s political thriller Designated Survivor, behind-the-scenes the show is struggling to find its creative footing as the series searches for their fourth showrunner in a year.

The Kiefer Sutherland-led series is making another change in its internal direction according to The Hollywood Reporter, by adding yet another showrunner and quite possibly, another change of direction for the drama.

A showrunner is the person who has overall creative authority and management responsibility for a television program. Reportedly, the series’ Executive Producer Jeff Melvoin will remain on board, but the showrunner position will be up for grabs as the Designated Survivor moves forward into its possible second season.

This could be a good thing for fans of the show and the series itself as a retooling some of the more unnecessary underlying storylines such as Aaron and Emily’s romance, Seth’s romantic interest in a White House reporter and Alex’s legal career will likely be erased from the series.

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Melvoin took over the role of showrunner in December of 2016. Melvoin replaced Jon Harmon Feldman. Feldman replaced Amy B. Harris who was the series original showrunner when it was greenlighted by ABC in 2016.

With so many new series entering the fall season, television networks are under a lot of pressure to keep ratings on an even keel and when the numbers are not what they anticipated; the pressure is on to make the necessary changes to bring about success. Hence, the revolving door at Designated Survivor, which was promoted as a fast-paced political drama but after its first two episodes, was anything but.

The series floundered in its first few episodes as fans could not grasp the bigger picture of what the show and its main characters were about. Initially Designated Survivor was about the Capitol bombing, a strong plot point that fans quickly latched on to. But as the show continued to progress and showrunners stepped in and out, the shift in the series focus was apparent to fans who began to turn away as the episodes prior to the show’s winter break were muddy, uninteresting and tough to follow despite the strong acting skills of lead actor Kiefer Sutherland.

Since returning from its mid-season hiatus, Designated Survivor seems to be on steadier ground after attempting to find a delicate balance between being a family drama and a political thriller. Designated Survivor attempted to showcase new President Kirkman’s difficulties in being both an effective father and president by bringing in a question of his paternity to son Leo and his changing relationship with strong-willed wife Alex in the show’s earlier episodes.

The Kirkman family has since been moved off-camera to Camp David and pushed towards the background, allowing the show’s overall pace to quicken in its subsequent episodes.

Fans have noticed the change in the overall landscape of the series, where strong supporting characters such as FBI investigator Hannah Wells have been pushed forward and others such as White House Chief of Staff Emily Rhodes, once a leading character, are now pushed to the background.

Designated Survivor is the story of a United States Cabinet appointee who is remarkably made president after he is named the designated survivor during a routine State of the Union address. During the address the Capitol building was bombed, killing everyone above him in the presidential line of succession.

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The ABC series is a twisted political drama where if you miss one week, you miss a lot. Fast-moving and timely, the series can be a tough train to keep on the rails with its myriad of both leading and minor characters, all of whom seem to have a hand in the underlying demise of the United States government as it stands today.

Designated Survivor, although holding a rabid fan base has been slow to start ratings-wise but is gradually building momentum. Its April 5 episode titled, “One Hundred Days” drew over 5 million viewers, putting it second in its time slot behind NBC’s Chicago PD according to Zap2It.


Designated Survivor airs on ABC on Wednesdays at 10/9c. Want more news? Like our Designated Survivor Facebook page.

(Images courtesy of ABC)

Lucille Barilla

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Lucille has over 30 years of experience as a writer and editor for various entertainment entities, including print and digital publications such as The Inquisitr, Monsters & Critics, Entertainment Daily, She Knows, BuddyTV, Starpulse, and Fashion & Style.