Emmy-winning actor Kiefer Sutherland is best known for his intense, dramatic roles as Jack Bauer on “24” and President Tom Kirkman on “Designated Survivor”. I was too young when “24” was on FOX. The closest I came to appreciating the show at the time was watching the “24 Minutes” “Simpsons” episode featuring Sutherland as a guest star.
But when I kept seeing the commercials and previews for “Designated Survivor”, there was something about it that made me want to tune-in. 17 million others joined me, watching ABC’s Pilot episode of the drama series over the course of its first week. I was hooked. I HAD to get involved in this story. And I was during the entire first season, which was broken up into halves, with a winter break in the middle.
“DS” proved to be a winner, becoming the 14th most-watched primetime network program of the 2016-2017 TV season. It’s no wonder that ABC renewed for a second season. Sutherland revealed that after reading the Pilot, “I remember getting to the end of the script and thinking I was potentially holding the next 10 years of my life in my hands.” I thought the show could’ve gone on for 10 years. Unfortunately, some behind the scenes drama started to drag things down. New show-runners, controversial casting changes and the leak of a major plot spoiler clouded over the premiere of Season 2. And to top that off, the series tried to get “funnier”. WHY?!?!?!?!
The numbers shot way down, and after the midseason winter break, “DS” came back with a more sophisticated second half of the season – but it wasn’t enough save the show. The ratings were too low and the production costs too high to make it worthwhile for a 3rd Season on ABC.
I met Sutherland in my neck of the woods of Albany, NY on the day of “Designated”’s final episode on ABC: May 16, 2018. He was in town performing a show with his band. Sutherland was quite nice to me and appreciated how much I enjoyed “DS”. During this time, he was working with Netflix on putting together a 10-episode 3rd season on the streaming service, which debuted in June 2019.
As a loyal “DS” viewer, I was instantly satisfied with “DS” Season 3, and though I didn’t want it to be the end of the series, I’m glad that it at least happened to give Kirkman & Co. some final, big storyline arcs. Sutherland’s performance: better than ever.
Now he plays a Los Angeles detective on a new version of “The Fugitive”. It debuts this Monday August 3rd on Quibi. The short-form streaming service has received a lot of negative press lately, though it did score 10 Emmy nominations earlier this week. I’ve been looking forward to watching this for a while primarily because of Sutherland. If he brings it like he did as Bauer and Kirkman, this could be a memorable drama series.
Though, as Quibi bills them, these aren’t really TV shows, but rather “Movies in Chapters.” As Sutherland explained the other day on “LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan”: “‘The Fugitive’ is a full-length feature film that was tailored to 9-10 minute episodes. There are 14 of them. It’s a piece of work that I got to do with Stephen Hopkins, one of my favorite directors. [He] did the first season of “24”. This character is, in many ways, very similar to Jack Bauer, so it felt like a coming home to that thriller genre. And it’s something I’m very proud of.”
Before he talked about “The Fugitive”, Sutherland told a story about the late Regis Philbin. It shows not only how amazing Regis was but how down to Earth Sutherland is: “Some people are built for this early morning, high-energy stuff. I am not one of them. In 2001, when ’24’ had just started, we needed all the help we could to get the awareness out. Regis had said he was a fan of the show right before I went on for the very first time. And he knew that I was really nervous. And if you watch the segment, he laughs just a little louder if I tell a joke, or he seems more focused if I’m telling a story. He did everything he could in my little segment to make me feel as safe and comfortable as possible. And I’ll never forget that.”
The team at “LIVE!”, who took part in an emotional Regis tribute episode on Monday that’s one of the best hours of TV over this entire ‘pandemic’ time, was fortunate to have someone like Sutherland scheduled to come on that day: an A-list, legendary actor who knew Regis well and could say exactly the right, honest and sincere things in a moment like this.