It might be best not to fall for this ‘Bull’

For­mer ‘NCIS’ star Weatherly’s new se­ries a pile of hubris

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - LIFE - CBS’ star­ring Michael Weatherly, cen­ter, gets the cov­eted post- slot on Tues­days.

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.



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