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The Surprising Success of CBS’s Bull

This May when I wrote up about the diversity of new shows for this season of TV, Michael Weatherly’s Bull had not stuck out to me as being particularly progressive. Three of the six series regulars are white, but the original promos for the show highlight Weatherly’s Dr. Bull and his executive assistant, Marissa Carr. To be fair, there is one scene with Hamilton‘s Christopher Jackson who portrays Chunk Palmer. His job is to dress up or down the team’s clients to make them more empathetic to the jury. Plus the show looked like yet another of CBS procedural/law shows with no actual content to make it different.

Now after watching the show, I have realized that the show is a lot less bull and has way more heart than expected for a courtroom drama.

Unlike other procedurals which follow the cops finding a criminal or a courtroom drama that focuses on proving the criminals’ guilt, Bull focuses amost entirely on the juries who decide if someone is guilty or not which is what makes the show really fun and entertaining.

Enter Dr. Jason Bull, a divorced psychologist and expert jury consultant who alongside his team represent innocent clients utilizing trial science. Cable (Annabelle Attanasio) the team’s IT whiz finds mock jurors to which the team present their case. The team also includes a lawyer, Bull’s former brother-in-law Benny Colon (Freddy Rodriguez) and Danny James, a former FBI Agent (Jaime Lee Kirchner). Each episode follows the team working to get the jury to empathize with the client and declare them not guilty.

Dr. Bull himself is also a major asset to the show. Other know-it-all protagonists cause trouble and are a pain in the behind for their unique abilities. Yet, Bull is calm, collected, and reasonable. He knows that his method of doing trial science is honestly a bit hokey, even if in the show (and the real world) there are merits to it. He always appreciates his team for the hard work that they do, and he’s always kind to his clients, even the difficult ones. Even the clothing chosen for his character imbues a sense of relatability. He does wear suits in courts but is otherwise in fun sweaters and casual pants making him more down to earth.

Additionally, the show successfully handles topical or more social justice related issues. In the pilot the client is a gay teenager who has only just realized he is gay which is a large part of the case. The second episode follows the surviving pilot of a plane crash who at first juries see as culpable because she is a woman. (This is one of my favorites because we find out that Bull has a history of being a pilot and is very aware of the sexism in the industry.)

Still, the show is never heavy-handed and interrogates issues in a pretty even and balanced way and does not attempt to after-school PSA style teach the audience a lesson. So if you’re looking for an easy to watch, but still entertaining drama where good guys win and found families prosper, Bull is the show for you!


Image courtesy of CBS

Seher
Written By

Seher obsesses over show ratings and usually writes about media representation issues. Otherwise, she's reading away for her graduate program in anthropology.

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