ABC has officially picked up conspiracy thriller drama Designated Survivor starring Kiefer Sutherland to series. The project, from the Mark Gordon Co. and ABC Studios, had a straight-to-series order by ABC but I hear there was an out option after the pilot, written by David Guggenheim and directed by Paul McGuigan. However, I hear the pilot came in very strong, getting arguably the most enthusiastic reaction among all ABC drama pilots this year, thus cementing its series status. Along with the formal pickup news, ABC has released a teaser trailer for the show (watch it above) as the network will likely start promoting the return to primetime of 24 star Sutherland right away, including during its NBA playoffs coverage.
There will be a change at the helm of Designated Survivor as it moves to the series stage. I hear Jon Harmon Feldman (Dirty Sexy Money) is in talks to join as new showrunner, replacing Amy Harris. Designated Survivor was written on spec by Guggenheim (Safe House) for producer Simon Kinberg. The two set it up at the Mark Gordon Co., which sold the project to ABC in December. Harris was brought in at a later stage, just as the pilot was gearing for production in February. As the course for the series beyond the pilot was being mapped out, I hear there was a change in creative direction that has led to the showrunner change.
Designated Survivor centers on Tom Kirkman (Sutherland), a lower cabinet member who unexpectedly becomes president after a devastating attack on Washington. He will struggle to prevent the country and his own family from falling into chaos, as he is thrust into one of the most difficult presidencies in history. The series features a supporting cast of established actors that includes Natascha McElhon, Maggie Q, Kal Penn, Adan Canto, Italia Ricci, LaMonica Garrett and Tanner Buchanan.
Creator Guggenheim executive produces with Kinberg, Sutherland, Mark Gordon, Nick Pepper, Suzan Bymel, and Aditya Sood. This marks the first on-air series for the Mark Gordon Co. since the company relaunched as an indie backed by eOne.
Feldman, who is under an overall deal at ABC Studios, most recently ran ABC’s Blood & Oil.