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TV Series Review

Had a fight with your husband? There, there. Tell Bull all about it. Love the lottery? Bull wants to know how often you buy tickets. Think guacamole is the yummiest thing ever? Well, maybe Bull doesn't care much about that … unless, of course, you've been called for jury duty and your curious love of avocados might statistically make you more inclined to convict his client. If that's the case, you can bet he'll be locked in on your guac.

Dr. Jason Bull is a trial consultant—one with more Ph.D.s than feet and a better win record than Bill Belichick.

Think a trial is decided by good, old-fashioned detective work? Lots of CBS procedurals would like you to believe that. Dedicated lawyers making impassioned speeches? CBS has a show or two like that on the docket, too. But in this CBS procedural, the focus is not on an autopsy or an argument, but on the jury. And it's Bull's job to make sure that every jury comes to the same conclusions he did—no matter what the evidence or those obnoxious lawyers might say.

Taking This Show by the Horns

Bull's in the business of jury selection. Not jury tampering, technically—though some might argue that his ability to manipulate the process is a bit like counting cards at the blackjack table. The psychologist uses his understanding of the human mind, reams of statistics and his own gut to make sure that the standard "jury of one's peers" is manipulated for the good of his often well-paying client.

(Bull's profession isn't a fictional construct, by the way. Indeed, Bull is based on the experiences of none other than "Dr. Phil" McGraw, who was a trial consultant himself before becoming a famous TV shrink.)

But this work calls for more than just one guy. So Bull's aided by a host of experts: Marissa Morgan is a neurolinguistics whiz from Homeland Security, tasked with studying stats and creating algorithms to predict how a juror might react. Danny James came from the FBI and now serves as the team's investigator. Cable McCrory handles the computers—and naturally has the ability to hack into any system that Bull deems necessary. Chunk Palmer, a former football player and the team's gay stylist, makes sure Bull's clients are dressed particularly winsomely. Benny Colon, Bull's ex-brother-in-law, plays the lawyer on all Bull's mock trials.

Together, they comb through the digital footprint and psychological makeup of jurors to figure out where their pain points might be. Or, conversely, where they might be particularly sympathetic. Is Bull's latest client a cat burglar—like, someone who actually steals cats? Yeah, guilty or not, Bull might want to avoid the would-be juror who tweets out pictures of all 27 of hers. Has Bull been hired by an organic gardener accused of killing a customer with a radish? Why, that lady who belongs to all those militant vegan groups might be just the ticket to getting his client cleared.

Oh, and Bull's hardly lets a little thing like the law—y'know, the thing that he's supposed to be serving—get in the way of defending his always-innocent clients. If a well-timed blackout might get a juror to think twice about his client's guilt, he has no qualms about asking Cable to hack into the juror's apartment.

We, Plugged In, Find the Defendant …

Guilt and innocence have been a staple of the television diet practically since television was invented. Viewers are fascinated with crime, cops and court, and CBS has been particularly adept at making the process feel, if not new, at least newish. Its CSI shows made forensics cool. Its NCIS series of series brought a little military culture into that mix.

Now, the Tiffany Network turns its corporate eye toward another little-understood aspect of crime and punishment: the behind-the-scenes jockeying for sympathetic jurors and the never-ending effort to subconsciously sway them in ways that might not have a thing to do with the actual case. "We'll know how they vote even before they do," Morgan brags.

If you think there's something creepy about that, you're not alone. The Los Angeles Times called it "a procedural made for the Year of the Rigged."

We can be thankful in the context of the show, I suppose, that Bull always defends the folks whom we're supposed to be rooting for. He's a bit of a lovable cad, but he's not in it for the money. He'll take a case with the longest of odds if he's convinced it's the right thing to do.

"Most people hear a man confessed to murder and they think [he's] guilty," Morgan says. "You hear a man confess and you give up a fortune to represent him."

"It's great to be me, isn't it?" Bull says, smirking.

We can also be grateful that Bull—despite the sneaky little nod the show's title gives to another more objectionable phrase—is pretty light in terms of content. While the personal and dating lives of Bull's staff come up in conversation, this is not a show that spends an inordinate amount of time in the bedroom. Because its focus is on the trial rather than the investigation, audiences aren't overly exposed to gory murder scenes or bloody autopsies. Even the language, by today's broadcast standards, is relatively restrained.

Still, Bull's methods—both above and below board—are at times ethically troubling. Even though Bull always knows who's guilty or innocent, his ability to get jurors to reach that same conclusion can be bothersome and sometimes flat-out illegal. This CBS procedural turns the legal process into a contest in which the guy with the best stats, most computers and the least ethical qualms wins.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Bull: Oct. 25, 2016 "Just Tell the Truth"

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Michael Weatherly as Dr. Jason Bull; Freddy Rodríguez as Benny Colón; Geneva Carr as Marissa Morgan; Jaime Lee Kirchner as Danny James; Annabelle Attanasio as Cable McCrory; Chris Jackson as Chunk Palmer

Director

Distributor

Network

CBS

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Released

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

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