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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

PILOT REVIEW: Bull

BULL












Starring: Michael Weatherly, Freddy Rodriguez, Geneva Carr, Jamie Lee Kirchner, Annabelle Attanasio, Christopher Jackson

Created by Paul Attanasio ad Dr. Phillip C. McGraw
Written by Paul Attanasio & Dr. Phillip C. McGraw, Directed by Rodrigo Garcia

I read somewhere that Bull is the most CBS-y thing CBS could make and boy does that hit the nail on the head. Michael Weatherly returns to the network just a few months after his NCIS departure and he stars as Dr. Jason Bull, a psychologist who specializes as a jury consultant. Based on the early career of Dr. Phil, he and his team analyze juries to try to free innocent people charged with crimes. His team consists of your typical stock characters in a crime procedural including millennial techies (yes there's an unnecessary dig at millennials - what did you expect? It's CBS after all) and optics people. Aside from Bull himself, the supporting characters have about as much character development as you would expect in a procedural pilot. In fact, the players in the case of the week and even some members of the jury felt far more like the supporting characters than Bull's team though Hamilton's Christopher Jackson had a few nice moments and the most personality of the bunch.

I got a bad taste in my mouth early in this episode with the montage that opened the episode and the shots of instagram, twitter, and internet memes flying over the screen. If this show gets in the CBS syndication factory, how is that going to look in 10 years? Pretty comically dated, I would guess. Whether you like shows like this or not, it's easy to see that Michael Weatherly is selling it with all he can and largely succeeding. He is charming and confident bordering on arrogant. I don't watch NCIS and never have but I know Weatherly was popular on that show, it's easy to see why CBS jumped at the chance of making him a leading man.

The story itself in the pilot was pretty predictable and allowed for some pretty obvious plot "twists" right down to the bitter end of the episode, but I still felt like they kept the action moving. It didn't feel like a chore to watch this case which is always a good sign. I actually think it seemed like they ran out of time to tell the case of the week because the ending part of the court scenes felt very rushed. I didn't care for the part where the jurors were having their out of body moments and talking to Bull. I hope that is something the show does away with quickly and doesn't think is one of the cool things they do, because it's not.

This isn't a show that's hard to predict what future episodes will look like and that's not necessary a slam. For every high concept show that has no idea where it's going, a safe and predictable show like this is OK to have around. I don't really care if they delve into Bull's personal life or backstory though it appears they might want to based on some interactions towards the end of the episode. I also don't really care to see the supporting cast become more than the stock characters that they are. I would rather a show like this find compelling cases of the week with compelling guest stars. That's what will make this show the best it can be, which may not be fantastic, but will certainly be comfortable.

WILL I WATCH IT AGAIN?
This is more my kind of comfort food than a show like Kevin Can Wait but make no mistake, I do not think it is great television. Do I think I'll be watching it regularly still in May? No. Will I watch a couple more weeks and sporadically after that? Probably.

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