So, uh, yeah. I watched every episode of Bull. On one level – age, demographic – I’m probably exactly who it was aimed at. It’s still a bit weird, though, because as far as I can tell the show’s USP is the presence of Michael Weatherly in the lead role. Now, Weatherly made a name for himself in Dark Angel, then spent years as the star of ratings behemoth NCIS. I haven’t knowingly seen a single second of either show, and until now wouldn’t have been able to pick Weatherly out of a police lineup.
Anyway. Dr Jason Bull is the head of Trial Analysis Corporation (TAC), a company which provides in-depth jury analysis during litigation. It seems to be a huge enterprise, but we only really get to meet a few of his team: Marissa (the superb Geneva Carr), who seems to be his chief lieutenant; Chunk (Christopher Palmer), on fashion and styling duties; pugnacious lawyer Benny (Freddy Rodriguez); investigator Danny (Jaime Lee Kirchner); and – in keeping with most procedurals these days – an attractive geek, Cable (Annabelle Attanasio).
Most episodes follow the same pattern: Bull, to a variable amount of scepticism from one or all of the team, takes on a case, then provides on-the-spot thumbs-up-or-down during voir dire, and when the case looks hopeless reassures the client that everything will work out OK in due course. Meantime, TAC assembles a shadow jury, designed to replicate the real one as closely as possible, meaning that they can immediately gauge the success or failure of courtroom strategies. Then they win, with the proviso that if their client has been acquitted in a criminal case Bull will identify the real baddie before the credits roll.
Its very predictability, though, is most probably the secret of its success (and it has been a success in America, with a second season on the way): in horribly uncertain times, it’s nice to have a show in which good generally beats evil. And it also has Weatherly, who is charming, with occasional hints of both steel and vulnerability. It’s a remarkably sexless show, mind you: the obvious ship is Bull and Marissa, but the writers have shown no sign at all of going there; meantime, even though at one point Bull seemed to be able to choose between Jill Flint and Eliza Dushku, which is quite the choice, he generally gave the impression that he’d be happier just going to bed on his own.
Dushku appeared in this season finale, at the end of a three-episode guest arc as J.P. Nunnelly, self-proclaimed world-class litigator. And it was one of the better episodes, even though I had to get over Bull’s nonsensical scruples about taking on a case which might have been funded through drug money. Once he’d worked through that, because of the involvement of a violent cartel the jury members were seated behind a screen, meaning that TAC had to guess what they looked like when assembling the shadow jury. Much to my embarrassment – this being Bull – I didn’t quite understand the conclusion: why would REDACTED be safe from retribution just because of the way in which the case ended? I may have missed something. But Bull proved, more often than not, to be just the thing when I wanted to watch something diverting and enjoyable, and I’ll definitely be back for the next season.