Based on the early career of Dr. Phil, this US drama has an odd disconnect and a strange execution.
The premise of Bull sounds like it should be easily entertaining, but the execution is, frankly, a lot of Bull.
This new star-vehicle for ex-NCIS heartthrob Michael Weatherly is apparently inspired by the early work of Dr. Phil McGraw, who is credited as co-creator and one of the producers. It was during his work with a trial consulting firm he later met Oprah Winfrey.
But this ain’t no bio-pic. It’s a legal drama where Dr. Jason Bull (Weatherly) “reads” a jury like The Mentalist or Sherlock and saves the day, or the case in question.
He does this by using his psychology skills and powers of detection at Trial Analysis Corp, backed up by a whiz-bang computer system with a 400 factor matrix (I think it might be borrowed from Person of Interest).
“We know how they vote before they do,” says one of TAC’s nameless assistants.
Yep he’s a jury-whisperer.
The case in question is a trial in which the teenage son of an arrogant millionaire is facing a murder charge. Bull uses all the power and high-tech to commandeer a sympathetic jury and hopefully steer the lawyers towards a not-guilty outcome.
But never mind whether the kid is actually guilty or not. Everyone is so wrapped up in a good ‘ol USA win that this question -and any moral dilemmas therein- is left until very late in the piece. In fact the whole concept of layering computers over jury outcomes is so “Only in America” that I felt an enormous disconnect to this. It didn’t help that it was sloppy in setting up any sympathy for the accused. Half the characters in this show are unlikeable.
But the most bizarre fantasy aspect was a courtroom scene in which the actors playing jurors turned to Weatherly and told him what they were thinking. What genre were we slipping into now? If the show isn’t going to take its universe seriously, how can the audience?
Weatherly ploughs through this muddled plot to little avail, desperately wanting to be the next Simon Baker. His support team, which includes Freddy Rodriguez, lack meaningful purpose in the first episode so maybe that will improve after the establishing stuff is out of the way.
And after all that work reading a jury, the show actually denies us a front row seat to watching them deliberate. Get me 12 Angry Men.
Bull is a show that sure lives up to its title. C’mon TEN, put that on the promo?
Bull premieres 8:30pm Sunday on TEN.