It might be best not to fall for this ‘Bull’
Former ‘NCIS’ star Weatherly’s new series a pile of hubris
When thrown the bull, the best idea is to throw it back. A misconceived mistake in most every way, Bull (Tuesday, 9 ET/PT, egEE out of four) is putatively based on the early career of Dr. Phil McGraw, who also self-serves as a producer, a bad idea in and of itself. But put that aside. What Bull is really most firmly and obviously built upon is CBS’ continuing, desperate desire to rearrange the same tired procedural building blocks into yet another hour-long mediocrity.
So you get the tough female investigator (Jaime Lee Kirchner); the bantering sidekick (Freddy Rodriguez); the now-essential offbeat hacker (Annabelle Attanasio); and the ex-government aide and expert (Geneva Carr). And leading them all is our cocky, brilliant but secretly damaged hero, Dr. Jason Bull, whose near miraculous powers of observation are married to TV’s almost touching faith in the breadth, depth and efficacy of data collection. You know: All those shows where you can find everything you need to know about who people are and what they plan to do with the click of a computer key.
The distinguishing factor is supposed to be former NCIS star Michael Weatherly as Bull, but whether this counts as distinguished depends on how tolerant you are of him re-using and misapplying old tricks. Many loved his character Anthony DiNozzo’s bravado, chatter and swagger on NCIS, but that worked because the other characters reliably brought him down a peg.
Here, playing a man who is always in charge and usually deferred to, the routine comes across as unbearably smug.
Some may find that surprising. For others, the real and only surprise is that the show’s co-creator is Paul Attanasio (Annabelle’s father). A stellar writer and producer, Attanasio earned Oscar nominations for Quiz Show and Donnie Brasco and Emmy nominations for House. Let’s just say that ratings success, should it come, will have to serve this time as Attanasio’s reward.
No mere jury consultants, Bull and his friends are trial analysts. In practice, that seems to mean they’re hired to tell the lawyers and defendants everything the jury is thinking (they address Bull, and us, in imaginary monologues) and what to do in response.
Unfortunately, Bull isn’t the only one who knows exactly what’s going to happen: So will any 10-year-old who has spent even a moderate amount of time watching TV.
Every plot twist is telegraphed, if not in the script, then by Bull’s habit of staring at people right before they prove to have something to confess.
There’s hardly a moment that’s believable or an actor who isn’t wasted. If you’re looking for who suffers worst, go with poor Christopher Jackson, who had to go from Hamilton to this.
To be sure, CBS knows its viewers, and Bull may very well work for them. Just don’t let the network try to tell you this was the best show it could find or the best work it can do.
Because the answer to that is “bull.”
John Ross Bowie and Minnie Driver star as parents of a child with cerebral palsy on the ABC comedy Speechless.