September 20, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Bull”


BULL:  Tuesday 9PM on CBS – Change the Channel

CBS’s BULL is, from its title down, almost completely insufferable.  Loosely inspired by the pre-TV professional life of Dr. Phil (billed here as “Dr. Phillip C. McGraw” for maximum pretentiousness), and co-created by McGraw and industry veteran Paul Attanasio (a co-creator of the great Homicide back in the 1990s), it casts Michael Weatherly as Dr Jason Bull, a psychologist who runs a high-tech jury consultant business in present-day New York.

The show’s view of Bull is simple:  he’s an utterly infallible smart-ass.  If he distrusts the lead attorney on the case he’s working on, that lawyer must be a pompous weasel; if he casts a glance at the attorney’s mousy associate, she must secretly be a legal dynamo.  Bull is both cynical and able to see instantly into anyone’s heart, with a superpower that allows him to pick out of a jury pool the one potential juror who will not only side with his client, but who will singlehandedly lead the rest of the jury to follow her.  On top of that, once he’s gotten his client acquitted, he can identify the real murderer and convince the police to arrest the culprit despite having not a single shred of evidence.  All that, and he also keeps up a steady stream of repartee with his interchangeable group of minions.  It’s a wonder that he can’t change the weather and bat clean-up for the Mets while he’s at it.

We’re supposed to find Bull charming and amazing, of course (a brief scene tacked onto the end of the pilot tries to introduce the faintest hint of vulnerability), but Weatherly plays him so smugly that he seems more like a con man who keeps getting lucky.  It doesn’t help that the pilot script by Attanasio and McGraw is laughable as a legal procedural and stuck on the same obvious note from beginning to end, as one character after another doubts Bull’s genius, and he, without breaking a sweat, proves them wrong.  In the pilot’s storyline, a seeming rich punk is accused of murdering the drug-dealing girl he slept with on a yacht, and only Bull can see the defendant’s sensitivity (he has daddy issues) and hidden homosexuality (his secret alibi is that he was sleeping with a man), because only Bull, like radio’s The Shadow, can see into the hearts of men.

Bull is professionally assembled for the most part, and pilot director Rodrigo Garcia, better known for arthouse film and TV (Last Days In the Desert, Mother and Child, In Treatment, Carnivale) keeps things moving at a good clip, but the substance here is vacuous and simplistic.  Nonetheless, with NCIS as its lead-in and that show’s former co-star Weatherly at its center, Bull is expected to draw strong ratings, with no direct competition from Scream Queens, This Is Us or ABC’s sitcoms.  That may make Bull a success, but it won’t make the series any less painful to watch.

NETWORK FINALS:  Guilty As Hell.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."