Kiefer Sutherland’s new show Designated Survivor obviously isn’t afraid to tackle touchy subjects. In fact, the entire premise of the series is based on the bombing of a State of the Union speech that kills the President of the United States and wipes out all of Congress, leaving Sutherland’s character–Tom Kirkland, the HUD secretary–as the only surviving member of the administration, and thus the man who assumes the presidency. I’ll admit I was intrigued by the concept, and I’d liked Sutherland as an actor ever since I saw him as a vampire punk in The Lost Boys, so I gave the show a try when it premiered last September. The premiere episode was pretty decent–but something about it made me uneasy, and it had nothing to do with a smoldering CGI Capitol laying in ruins.
It was more like a feeling that somehow, some way, the show was going to sucker punch me.
It didn’t take long. The first slap came at the end of the pilot, when they planted the seed that the bombing had been staged to look like Islamic terrorism, but was really the work of some other group. But the real backhander came in the Very Special Episode two, which featured a Michigan governor (Republican, naturally) who had the cops put the beat-down on some local Muslims until Kirkland channels some Jack Bauer intensity to stop him–but not before a Muslim teen dies in custody.
And just like that, Designated Survivor had jumped the shark.
Of course, it’s not like I hadn’t seen it coming–but I was pretty gobsmacked at just how ham-fisted it was. Apparently cramming their lefty preaching into the show’s subtext was too subtle for the writers, so they brought out the bat and beat the audience senseless with it.
I gave up on the Kirkland administration after that.
Designated Survivor has soldiered on, though, with plot twists that make Sutherland’s previous efforts on 24 seem downright lazy by comparison. Oh, and that bombing at the Capitol? Yeah, it’s a conspiracy. Something involving a congressman (white guy, former solider–a twofer!) who supposedly survived the explosion but really set it off with the help of a shadowy private security firm (probably run by more white guys). Because, ya know, radical Islam couldn’t really the enemy, right?
Not able to leave well enough alone with that particular trope, the show has now moved on to another liberal bugaboo: gun control. In last week’s episode, President Kiefer–after encountering (again, Republican) resistance to a gun control bill–makes an impassioned speech to the newly sworn-in Congress, trying to sway just a few Senators so that the stalled bill can finally make its way to his desk. He assures them:
I believe that the American people have every right to buy and own guns by virtue of the Second Amendment. I would also like to take a moment to quash the myth that somehow gun control is equal to the Federal Government coming into your home and taking your weapons away. Nobody is advocating for that. We need to be doing everything we can to stop guns from falling into the hands of prior felons, people dealing with serious mental-health issues, people on terrorist watch lists. I mean, come on. We need to be using common sense. It’s as simple as that.
If that sounds like it came straight out of a Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence press release–well, that’s because they actively worked with the producers of Designated Survivor in crafting the message.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the country’s leading gun control groups, said they gave a presentation to the team behind the primetime show starring Kiefer Sutherland.
“Our president Dan Gross presented to members of their team a while back before the season began about representing gun violence on screen and spent time educating them on the issue,” Brendan Kelly, a Brady Campaign spokesman, told the Washington Free Beacon. “It was part of that larger effort I alluded to in [a recent email to Brady supporters] to work with content producers and creators to highlight the issue of gun violence in America and the sensible solutions at our disposal.”
“We hope integrating this issue into storylines can help facilitate more conversation about the everyday gun violence that kills 33,000 Americans a year and shine a spotlight on the sensible steps politicians and gun owners alike can take to help bring that number down,” Kelly said. “For us, it’s about changing social norms and rethinking the way we talk about guns. Of course we appreciate when the issue is reflected as accurately as possible, recognizing creative liberties can and often are taken in entertainment. We think Designated Survivor really nailed it on that front.”
For that, the Brady Campaign wants you to send thank you notes to ABC, praising them for propagandizing–er, educating–its viewers on “common sense” gun control.
The organization urged their supporters to thank ABC for the episode and directed them to a site which sends a message to the network as well as sign them up for Brady Campaign email alerts.
It sure is nice to know that ABC is so open minded that they’ll allow social advocacy groups to slip content into their entertainment programming. Still, one wonders what kind of reception a group such as Live Action might get if they tried the same thing. Call me cynical, but I don’t think we’ll be seeing too many pro-life storylines on Designated Survivor anytime soon.
If you like your escapism served up with a side of liberal platitudes, though, you’ll find a lot on ABC to love. Why, just last night on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, I got treated to a HYDRA-ized version of nice guy Leopold Fitz vowing to hunt down genetically-enhanced inhumans (an obvious allegory for illegal immigrants) so that “we can make our society great again” (yes, really). I tell ya, Negan from The Walking Dead Would be jealous of the barbed wire bat these guys have been swinging.
What’s more, the simplicity with which these shows present complex issues like gun control is enough to drive you nuts. So, you want to keep guns out of the hands of people on a terrorist watch list? Sounds sensible enough. But how does a person end up on that list? Is it based on hard evidence? If not, it sounds an awful lot like someone is being deprived of a Constitutional right without due process. And what if a person ends up on that watch list by mistake? How long will it take to get off of it? And what’s to stop the government from abusing its authority and putting people on a list just because they don’t want them getting guns? The Obama administration once ruled that people on Social Security Disability were mentally ill for the purpose of restricting their ability to purchase guns–so don’t tell me it hasn’t happened before.
Or is that all just a bit too complicated for their simple “guns bad, gun control good” message?