In the fall of 2001, following the devastating 9/11 attacks, America needed a hero who would stop at nothing to fight terrorists and keep the country safe. Along came Jack Bauer, the intrepid CTU agent from Fox’s 24, played by Kiefer Sutherland.
The terrorism show had been in development for the previous year as another fictional drama because nobody suspected a massive, coordinated attack on American soil of the size of 9/11. But when 24 premiered on November 6, it immediately struck a cord, hitting the zeitgeist as the right show for the right time. 24 become an instant hit, ran for eight seasons, earned Emmy Awards and spawned a limited series and an upcoming reboot on Fox with new characters, which premieres after the Super Bowl. Sutherland, who won an Emmy for his role, played a big part in the success of 24 with his portrayal of the unflappable Bauer.
Fast-forward to late 2015, when Sutherland committed to his follow-up series Designated Survivor, in which he plays Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Tom Kirkman, a political outsider with no military background who has never held an elected position. He unexpectedly becomes the U.S. President after an unprecedented attack on the Capitol.
At the time the project was picked up by ABC in December 2015, the country was headed into the primary season with one of the most formidable fields of GOP candidates ever assembled, joined by a political outsider, Donald Trump, who was expected to fizzle out after the first rounds of voting. But he defied pundits, defeating more than a dozen established Republicans. He went on to face another veteran politician, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and defeat her too in a stunning upset last night to become the next U.S. President. He is the first person who has not held an elected office or served in the military to get to the Oval Office.
With 24 and Designated Survivor, the parallels to real life were unintentional, yet the timing of both Sutherland-starring shows is pretty remarkable. Designated Survivor just premiered on ABC this fall, during the final leg of the Presidential campaign, and has been given a full-season pickup.
Meanwhile, Showtime’s Homeland, the hit follow-up terrorism drama from 24 showrunner Howard Gordon, may be a little off target with its upcoming sixth season after the surprising outcome of the Trump-Clinton election. After a strong last season which reflected well the rise of terrorism in Europe — picking perfectly a setting and plotline that closely resembled reality — the Emmy-winning Homeland in Season 6 is dealing with a Presidential transition. Set after U.S. elections, the new season, which premieres January 15 on the eve of Trump’s inauguration, revolves around a female President-elect.