A win­ning com­bi­na­tion

Court­room drama is just the begin­ning in ‘Bull’

The Sentinel-Record - - COVER STORY - By Kyla Brewer TV Me­dia

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, which was a huge au­di­ence for a fresh­man se­ries.

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 re­cently 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 on-screen 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.

Bull’s clever for­mer brother-in-law, lawyer Benny Colón (Freddy Ro­driguez, “Six Feet Un­der”), serves as the team’s of­fi­cial le­gal coun­sel dur­ing mock tri­als and pro­vides in­valu­able le­gal guid­ance as they pre­pare for cases. Bull also re­lies on Marissa Mor­gan (Geneva Carr, “Law & Or­der: Crim­i­nal In­tent”), a neu­rolin­guis­tics ex­pert who used to work for the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity. She pro­vides him with real-time anal­y­sis of how ju­rors may re­act to the team’s tac­tics. One-time NYPD de­tec­tive Danny James (Jaime Lee Kirch­ner, “Mercy”) serves as the group’s lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor. Bull even em­ploys a stylist to help clients pre­pare to make good im­pres­sions at trial. For­mer Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia all-Amer­i­can line­man Chunk Palmer (Christo­pher Jack­son, “Oz”) en­sures TAC clients dress for suc­cess.

New to the reg­u­lar cast this sea­son is Macken­zie Mee­han (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” 2013) as Taylor Rentzel, Mor­gan’s old col­league from her days at Home­land Se­cu­rity.A work­ing mom, Rentzel was hired as the team’s cod­ing and com­puter hack­ing ex­pert fol­low­ing the death of Ca­ble McCrory (Annabelle At­tana­sio, “The Knick”), who per­ished in a tragic bridge col­lapse in the sea­son 3 opener.The char­ac­ter was killed off be­cause At­tana­sio wanted to take ad­van­tage of an­other pro­fes­sional op­por­tu­nity that would con­flict with “Bull’s” pro­duc­tion sched­ule.

The loss of Ca­ble has left some fans shaken, but time marches on for the CBS drama — this time in a new time-slot. Af­ter two years on Tues­day evenings, the show made the jump to Mon­days this sea­son, and the rat­ings have taken a bit of a dip. Sea­son 1 av­er­aged more than 15 mil­lion view­ers and sea­son 2 drew just a lit­tle over 14 mil­lion. Un­for­tu­nately, sea­son 3’s new night hasn’t been as kind to the show, which has been pulling in a lit­tle more than six mil­lion view­ers on av­er­age against such com­pe­ti­tion as ABC’s “The Good Doc­tor” and NBC’s “Man­i­fest.”

It may be that view­ers are still ad­just­ing to the new night for the smart drama, which of­fers a new per­spec­tive on the ethics of the le­gal sys­tem. Fans who may have lost track of Bull and his col­leagues will want to tune in as they use psy­chol­ogy and tech­nol­ogy to tackle an­other case in a new episode of “Bull,” air­ing Mon­day, Dec. 10, on CBS.

Geneva Carr in a scene from “Bull”

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