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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

On The Late Show and Late Night, the Designated Survivor cast compares improbable White Houses

Kal Penn, Seth Meyers
Kal Penn, Seth Meyers
Screenshot: Late Night With Seth Meyers

Sure, maybe ABC’s Designated Survivor—where Kiefer Sutherland’s low-level cabinet member Tom Kirkman is stuck with the job of president only after literally every other qualified human being preceding him in the line of succession gets blown up—operates on a level of improbable melodrama. But, as Stephen Colbert put it to Sutherland on Tuesday’s Late Show, perhaps the concept of a person “entirely unqualified to be president” suddenly being in charge of the country isn’t as outlandish as it used to be. Sutherland—whose briefly referenced life as a struggling actor rooming with Robert Downey Jr., Sarah Jessica Parker, and Billy Zane deserves a series of its own—could only laugh, admitting, “It’s a challenge to write a political show at this precise moment.” “I am aware,” deadpanned Colbert in return, adding that, these days, “reality tends to leapfrog you.” For example, see just one of today’s stories from the bafflingly not-fictional White House where Donald Trump senior advisor—and son-in-law—Jared Kushner had his security clearance downgraded for, among other things, repeatedly lying on his security clearance forms. “How will he fix the Middle East now?,” joked Colbert in his monologue, “He was so close to starting.”

Over on Late Night With Seth Meyers, Sutherland’s on-screen spokesman also weighed in, as Kal Penn sat down with Meyers to discuss, among other things, how his character, White House Press Secretary Seth Wright, compares to Trump’s latest designated spokes-liar, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “Well, we want to do things the right way on the show,” explained Penn, concluding that, of the various former White House spokespeople he’s shadowed to prepare for his role, “the current” holder of that position is not someone he emulates. Penn, who’s preparing a memoir detailing, among other things, his time serving in the Obama administration’s Office Of Public Engagement, also provided some insight on Kushner’s ongoing security issues.

Noting that he also had to fill out the exact same security clearance forms for his real-life government position, Penn scoffed at attempts by Kushner to blame his multiple, fireable lies on an underling. “It’s so intimate, you actually need to fill it out yourself,” said Penn, telling Kushner, “You knew—you lied on the form.”


Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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