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CBS hopes to create a Bull market via optimum product placement


Ex-NCIS co-star Michael Weatherly is on his own in Bull. CBS photo

Premiering: Tuesday, Sept. 20th at 8 p.m. (central) on CBS
Starring: Michael Weatherly, Geneva Carr, Freddy Rodriguez, Annabelle Anastasio, Chris Jackson, Jaime Lee Kirchner
Produced by: Mark Goffman, Paul Attanasio, Dr. Phil McGraw, Steven Spielberg, Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank, Jay McGraw

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Audience “flow” isn’t what it used to be in times of DVRs, On Demand options and streaming sites that quickly provide viewers with what they might have missed or what they plan to binge on.

Even so, the generally older CBS audience is more set in its ways than most. And if ever a new series was perfectly placed, it’s Bull. Michael Weatherly, who spent 13 seasons as Anthony “Tony” DiNozzo on NCIS, is now fronting a show airing immediately after NCIS and leading into another CBS ratings winner, NCIS: New Orleans. It’s tough to flop under such circumstances, assuming that Weatherly’s fan base is built on more than just the NCIS brand.

He plays Dr. Jason Bull, a cocksure character “inspired by the early career of Dr. Phil McGraw,” says CBS. Squint and you still won’t see a young Dr. Phil, though. Weatherly comes equipped with a big shock of hair, doesn’t have a mustache, is better built and all in all looks pretty damned dreamy. So this is more of a Dr. Phil fever dream.

Bull’s the head man at the sleek, state-of-the-art Trial Analysis Corporation, which is dedicated to the cynical but often all too true proposition that virtually anyone can beat a murder rap if the right jury is in play.

“The way to win is to know your jurors down to their neurons,” proclaims Marissa Morgan (Geneva Carr), Bull’s all-business “neurolinguistics expert.”

The premiere episode centers on the case of a smirking rich kid charged with murdering a young woman who washes up ashore. His attorney, played by guest star Peter Francis James, is both old-school and ridiculously solemn in tone and demeanor. This makes him an easy mark for Bull’s flip-offs, which include a recitation of the old Big Mac jingle (there’s later an Arby’s reference, too) in an effort to convince the defense that its simpleton “try the facts” approach is more outdated than the new CBS sitcom Kevin Can Wait. (Okay, he doesn’t quite put it that way.)

Bull, whose seven executive producers include both Dr. Phil and Steven Spielberg, deploys an added gimmick in which jurors’ thoughts are expressed verbally during trials while the title character “listens” intently. A young male juror, for instance, says he’s “so hung over.”

Meanwhile, dogged Marissa keeps digging for ways to exploit various jurors’ prejudices and predispositions. At one point, pictures are produced of a woman encased in “Japanese bondage rope” while ostensibly having sex with the rich kid defendant. “Thirty-six percent of Americans use masks, blindfolds and bondage tools, which makes handcuffs in bed more popular than either political party,” Marissa deadpans. (Usage varies, though, and I’m thinking that the CBS audience may not be as into this as, say, regular viewers of Cinemax.)

Bull eventually twists and turns itself into a verdict after Bull trains his team’s crosshairs on a juror who’s deemed to be both sympathetic to their side and highly persuasive during deliberations. Is it really all that simple? And wouldn’t you still rather have Perry Mason in your corner with his penetrating “Isn’t it true?” laser beam of a cross-examination?

That said, Weatherly is the here, the now and the only overriding reason to watch Bull. On his own or in the NCIS ensemble, his star quality is obvious and likely enough to carry Bull through a multi-season run. The time slot doesn’t hurt either. Even Bull’s Trial Analysis Corporation couldn’t have selected it any better.


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