A win­ning com­bi­na­tion: Court­room drama is just the be­gin­ning in ‘Bull’

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - CHANNELS - BY KYLA BREWER

Some TV dra­mas rely on pulserac­ing ac­tion and big-bud­get spe­cial ef­fects, while oth­ers draw au­di­ences in with clever writ­ing and charis­matic per­for­mances. View­ers look­ing for such smart TV may want to check out CBS’s lat­est Mon­day night hit.

Psy­chol­o­gist and trial sci­ence ex­pert Ja­son Bull (Michael Weatherly,

“NCIS”) helps clients win cases in the drama “Bull,” air­ing Mon­day, Dec. 10, on CBS. He em­ploys a team of ex­perts as he uses high-tech data anal­y­sis, as well as his intuition and knowl­edge of the hu­man psy­che, to fig­ure out what makes peo­ple tick in the hopes of tip­ping the scales of jus­tice.

Now in its third sea­son, the show was cre­ated by screen­writer Paul At­tana­sio (“Quiz Show,” 1994) and psy­chol­o­gist Phil Mc­Graw (“Dr. Phil”), and was in­spired by Mc­Graw’s early ca­reer as a trial con­sul­tant. The show pre­miered on Tues­day, Sept. 20, 2016, to more than 15 mil­lion view­ers.

Much of the show’s suc­cess has been at­trib­uted to Weatherly’s solid per­for­mance as Bull, who heads up the Trial Anal­y­sis Cor­po­ra­tion (TAC), a top trial con­sult­ing busi­ness. Although “Bull” is billed as be­ing “in­spired by” the life of tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity and author Mc­Graw, Weatherly clar­i­fied that the pro­gram isn’t bio­graph­i­cal. In a Novem­ber in­ter­view about the show’s third sea­son with ET Canada, the ac­tor talked about Mc­Graw’s on­go­ing in­volve­ment with the pro­duc­tion.

“[What] Phil Mc­Graw helps with a lot is the trial sci­ence and the anal­y­sis of how to best move for­ward in a jury trial,” he ex­plained. “How do you prep your wit­nesses, how do you se­lect or de­s­e­lect a jury ... that process is fas­ci­nat­ing, and it is a com­po­nent of the show, but we’re not fol­low­ing the life of Phil Mc­Graw.”

Weatherly seems well suited to take on the role of the fic­tional Bull, who holds three PhDs in psy­chol­ogy, as well as a pi­lot’s li­cense. Hav­ing failed the bar exam him­self, Bull isn’t gen­er­ally fond of lawyers, but seems to have found his niche in trial con­sul­ta­tion. Be­fore Weatherly snagged the star­ring role in this drama, he was well known to TV fans as An­thony DiNozzo in

“NCIS,” a role he played from that show’s premiere in 2003 un­til his de­par­ture in 2016. He’s also known for his work in the TV soap opera “Lov­ing” and the prime-time series “Dark An­gel,” the lat­ter of which earned him two Saturn Award nods and a Teen Choice Award nom­i­na­tion.

Weatherly now brings his on­screen charisma to his lead­ing role. Some­times brash, some­times charm­ing, Bull uses a va­ri­ety of tech­niques as he tries to pre­dict how ju­rors, de­fen­dants, wit­nesses and oth­ers might be­have dur­ing a trial. His ser­vices in­clude case in­ves­ti­ga­tion, as­sem­bling mock ju­ries and con­duct­ing mock tri­als with the help of his tal­ented team of ex­perts.

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