Kiefer Sutherland headed back to TV this fall with Designated Survivor, a brand new thriller that features the actor playing the head of Urban Development who ends up taking over as the President after a terrorist disaster leaves the President and his cabinet dead. The show kicked off strongly in the ratings, but has apparently been dealing with some problems behind-the-scenes. This week, we learned that Designated Survivor just lost its showrunner for the second time, and the show has tapped Jeff Melvoin to take over.
Designated Survivor's first showrunner, Amy B. Harris left the ABC program after the pilot got picked up to series, reportedly due to creative differences. Deadline notes that with Jon Harmon Feldman now leaving, there's no word as to why the showrunner is departing, but that there's certainly no ill will with the network. For instance, Feldman is reportedly working out an overall deal that will keep him with ABC for at least two more years. There is some speculation that Kiefer Sutherland's creative grip on the drama may be some problem for the showrunner, as he gets final say regarding the direction of the series, rather than the person who is supposed to be in charge of the overall drama. Again, that's simply a possibility not a probability.
While it's not unusual for showrunners to eventually leave shows to pursue other projects, it is unusual for a showrunner to quit midseason. It's also interesting that Jon Harmon Feldman was not the first showrunner on Designated Survivor. He, in fact, took over after Amy B. Harris quit the show, and now that he's leaving Jeff Melvoin will be the third showrunner---also a strange thing to happen during the show's very first season on the air.
Designated Survivor has, in fact, currently only aired eight episodes out of the 22-episode order ABC gave the drama. The show kicked off extremely strongly and was one of the most-watched premieres of the season. The live numbers especially have fallen a bit in the weeks since, and unlike a lot of the other fall shows, Designated Survivor hasn't yet found a number that is solid footing yet. An episode from last month in Live+7 day numbers did 11.9 million viewers, versus the premiere, which brought in 17.7 million total viewers, also in Live+7 day numbers. Shows do tend to lose viewers as the season wears on, but usually there's a number that a show will roughly stick with that is valid.
The showrunner does have a lot to do with the overall direction of a series, even if Kiefer Sutherland also has a say. Presumably Jeff Melvoin will make some changes after Jon Harmon Feldman leaves at the end of Episode 10. We'll have to wait and see if those changes are for the better. In the meantime, new episodes of Designated Survivor air on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET, only on ABC. In addition, here's what is coming up at midseason.