The time has come again. The summer sun has set. The days grow colder and the nights grow longer and we fill those nights with new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks have unleashed a flurry of new programs to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months and beyond. So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to. I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for…
THE PILOT PROJECT (2016 Edition)
Bull (Tuesdays on CBS)
“Why do you catch a cold?” This is the question that Dr. Jason Bull (Michael Weatherly) tells his client’s legal team to ask the jury. By asking them this question, Dr. Bull is able to establish how they view their “locus of control” – some jury members believe that they are in control of their world, and others believe that things just happen to them. Or, in other words, some just see themselves as victims of life, and those are the jury members that Dr. Bull can sway to his client’s side. Or something. As long as the charismatic Dr. Bull says it with his creamy smooth voice, it’s true, because that’s how things work in procedural land.
Bull is the second new CBS pilot to air this fall, and just like with Kevin Can Wait, there’s a lot here that should feel familiar to regular viewers of CBS programs. We’ve got a procedural drama that stars a sarcastic, charismatic genius who specializes in a very specific aspect of the justice system that allows him to do amazing things that nobody else understands. Bull is like Bones, or Castle, or House, except it’s a law drama. Bull is REALLY like the latter in that it was co-created by Paul Attanasio, who also created House (Bull’s other co-creator? Dr. Phil McGraw, who is the inspiration for the semi-autobiographical Dr. Jason Bull. Dr. Phil. That’s not a joke. Look it up.).
In Bull’s case, the “very specific aspect” is “trial science”, which is a real thing, believe it or not. Dr. Bull and his team (none of whom really make any sort of impact here) consult on things like witness preparation and jury selection and create “mirror juries” to find out how the real jury is leaning. They do this by investigating the jury members, scanning their social media pages and looking into their backgrounds. It all seems rather… unethical? It’s not jury tampering per se, as Dr. Bull and his team never actually interact with the jury (apart from a really odd end-of-episode moment that really wants to have something profound to say), but it’s certainly jury manipulation, which I suppose is legal? I don’t know. I could fact check, but if the presidential candidates don’t have to, then why should I?
I almost admire Bull for focusing on an aspect of law that is often overlooked in procedural dramas, but it seems less impressive once you realize that literally everything else has been done already. I still think it’s an interesting concept, but I don’t think this is an interesting show. There is a moment in the middle of this episode where the defendant’s father is shot on the steps of the courtroom as they are leaving. It’s a shocking moment, simply because it comes out of left field, but it has absolutely no bearing on the rest of the plot. It’s meant to get you to tune in after the commercial break, and that’s it. I’d be interested in a show that takes a deeper look at the ethical implications of “trial science”, but that’s not what this show is.
I don’t really know what else to say. This is another one of those shows. You already know if you like those shows or not, so why are you even reading this?