Don’t Turn That Dial
By Jarron Gravley
It is my belief that we are in a golden age of network television. Be it drama, comedy, dramedy, the episodic storytelling format a show uses to convey its story often almost rivals that of the big screen right now. This bi-weekly column will focus on currently-running shows of note that I believe hold up the standard of the best in programming. This week, we’ll be looking at two new series that stand a chance of being the best shows of the year. Next segment will be focused on the CW’s DC Comics series.
The story told in Designated Survivor is timely for 2016, in this era of political polarization and the climate of the fear of terrorism on American soil. This series clearly portrays the sense of tragedy that comes from terrorism, in its 9/11-esque imagery during the attacks on the Capitol, and in its aftermath. Kiefer Sutherland plays the role of Thomas Kirkland, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who eventually becomes President of the United States after the aforementioned attack on the Capitol. Sutherland’s performance as a man forced into the most important job in the country, dealing with the consequences of picking up the pieces of the government, and his subsequent emotional torment as a result is a powerful thing to watch. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds an eventual Emmy coming his way. The show’s direction and cinematography looks as good as a feature film. The writing is sharp and really gets into a realistic vision of today. This is a powerful series that has its best ahead of it. Designated Survivor airs Wednesdays at 10:00 PM EST on ABC.
This Is Us
This series completely took me by surprise when I saw the first episode, and it’s a classic example being pleasantly surprised by a piece of media. I was expecting a prime-time soap opera that’s needlessly melodramatic and sappy, but once I watched it, I realized that the show is intricately written, strongly acted, and genuinely emotionally charged. The show centers around the idea of several different people who share the same day of birth. While the concept sounds extraordinary, the characters portrayed throughout the narrative are modestly easy to relate to. They feel like real people with their struggles. There’s a relatively large plot twist in the show’s pilot episode that I won’t spoil here for the people who have not seen it, but it completely changes what you know after spending almost an hour already invested in the show. It doesn’t feel jarring, however. It feels natural and compliments the rest of the series. This Is Us airs at 9:00 PM EST on NBC.