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.

11 Responses

  1. The mere mention of Dr. Phil McGraw is enough to turn me off…cannot stand watching the man….the few times I have over many years…he appears to me…to think, he and only he, can solve all the worlds problems..very full of himself….just my opinion and how he comes across to me.

  2. No chance that we will watch this, just the concept sounded like a load of Bull from the promos. This jury nonesense is such a narrow area and so American. This garden fertiliser can be dumped on the outside for now…

  3. I have to disagree. I have watched the first 8 episodes and it does get a lot better. Those scenes with the jury in the courtroom are realistic it’s showing what Bill sees in his head how is is that any different to limitless? I would agree as far as pilots go it was lacking some but it irons out the creases in future episode. Stick with it.

    1. I would probably write a somewhat different review if I had watched 8 episodes legally too but TEN has not supplied 8. I generally write a review based on first episode which is how the audience comes to the piece. As for Limitless, it was immersed in its fantasy elements so no issue. This belatedly introduces them and with not much other inclusion. You need to commit the genre you’re in.

      1. I wasn’t criticising your review just adding my opinion my message was not you were wrong just that I think it’s worth a second look. On a side note do you think shows shouldn’t mix genres at all or that it has just been done badly?

        1. It sounds like you agree the opening was underwhelming. I remember a debate about whether Star Wars was a scifi / action / romance / history / road movie / fantasy etc. Many stories mix genres, but they do it with commitment. I felt his “hearing” the jury was a belated device. Should have signposted the fantasy elements earlier.

  4. There are currently 15 episodes by which this show can be judged. It doesn’t get any better.

    Imagine that someone made a poor version of Lie to Me. And then imagine that someone made a poor version of that.

    Seriously, the title is crying out to be vandalised by spraypainting the other half of the word that would describe this program. Ten have slow-tracked another tur…key.

Leave a Reply