Fall TV Preview

Bull Review: Michael Weatherly's New Legal Drama Delivers a Mixed Verdict

grade_C+CBS has a formula for its dramas, and it works: Combine an old-fashioned crime procedural with new-fangled gadgetry, and watch the syndication bucks roll in. It’s been a winning strategy for them since the original CSI debuted a decade and a half ago, so you can’t blame them for going to that well one again with Bull, a slick new legal drama that fits in perfectly with the CBS brand… for better or worse.

The big selling point of Bull (premiering Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 9/8c) is star Michael Weatherly, who’s fresh off a winning, 13-season run on TV’s most watched drama, CBS’ NCIS. With Bull airing directly after NCIS on Tuesday nights (smart move, schedulers!), it should get off to a healthy ratings start from millions of fans eager to see what’s next for the erstwhile Agent DiNozzo. But will they be as entranced by a character whose cockiness is not as balanced by schoolboy charm?

"The Necklace"--Dr. Jason Bull (Michael Weatherly), the brilliant, brash founder of a prolific trial consulting firm, combines psychology, human intuition and high tech data to create winning strategies that steer high-stakes trials in his clients' favor, on the series premiere of BULL, Tuesday, Sept. 20 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT), on the CBS Television Network. Pictured L-R: Michael Weatherly as Dr. Jason Bull and Geneva Carr as Marissa Morgan Photo: David M. Russell/CBS ©2016 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights ReservedLoosely inspired by the early career of TV shrink Dr. Phil McGraw, Weatherly’s Dr. Jason Bull  is a master of “trial science,” psychologically analyzing juries and witnesses to help attorneys win cases. His team at Trial Analysis Corporation (known as TAC, because CBS shows love a good acronym) utilizes gee-whiz technology to pinpoint each juror’s tendencies and manipulate them to help deliver the verdicts their clients are paying top dollar for. As one TAC team member crows, “the way to win is to know your jurors down to their neurons.”

It’s a cynical way to look at our justice system, but the win-at-all-costs pragmatism rings true, and Bull efficiently grafts all the high-tech mumbo-jumbo onto a basic TV courtroom drama. In the pilot, when a billionaire’s son is charged with murder, Bull’s team runs dozens of mock trials, monitoring each “mirror” juror’s reaction with cameras and hand scanners. Before the trial even begins, Bull knows what kind of juror will vote to acquit — and what approach they need to take to win.

The son’s high-priced lawyer dismisses Bull’s approach as “woo-woo psychology,” but it’s undeniably fun (if a little creepy) to see Bull dig around inside the psyches of jurors, seeking a weakness to exploit. Bull’s own psyche, though, remains a mystery. We do hear something about a messy divorce, and he has an awkward moment of vulnerability with a juror at the very end of the pilot. But, at first blush, he’s all swagger and sarcastic quips.

Bull‘s supporting cast of investigators don’t get to make much of an impression; they mostly pop up to breathlessly rattle off science-geek dialogue and then disappear again. (I was excited to see Freddy Rodriguez, so good on Six Feet Under, as one of Bull’s legal-eagle helpers. But even he fades into the background.)

And as interesting as Bull‘s juror-research aspects are, the actual courtroom scenes are over-the-top, with witnesses arguing with lawyers (and, in one case, assaulting them) from the stand. But that’s not surprising, since, ultimately on this kind of show, character and nuance take a backseat to The Formula. Find the killer, crack some jokes, come back again next week. Bull might offer a cool new tweak to the TV legal drama… but it leaves the tried-and-true CBS blueprint untouched.

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: Fans of CBS procedurals should give this Bull a ride, but everyone else can steer clear.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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109 Comments
  1. Kevin K says:

    Michael Weatherly will always be Tony DiNozzo on NCIS but his new role as Dr. Jason Bull should give the series something to look forward to. Bull is like a mix of Mentalist and Lie to Me in a courtroom.

  2. wrstlgirl says:

    I’m passing on this one.

  3. Sarah96 says:

    I don’t think you need to be a fan of CBS type of shows to enjoy this..I love Michael Weatherly and this show reminds me of The Mentalist in a way so I’m definitely watching it, people should judge the show by themselves and it might surprise some people.

    • wrstlgirl says:

      I definitely agree that people should judge for themselves. The “I’m waiting to see what other people think before I watch” comments irritate the crap out of me.

    • Donna Salvi says:

      Seldom does a critic deter me from trying out a show. I prefer to make up my own mind and I have been looking forward to this one.

  4. Jeanne says:

    C+ I don’t agree from the clips I’ve seen. I don’t think you have to be a fan of CBS procedurals to like it. It’s different from the others, and I’m looking forward to watching it. I don’t go by what critics say about a show. I watch and make up my own mind.

  5. Bar says:

    The “He’ll get you off” ad campaign makes my eyes roll every day. Michael Weatherly is definitely attractive, but he’s not some sort of gorgeous man and the marketing doesn’t depict him as such. I get the lawyer pun, but man it’s used terribly

  6. JP MD says:

    …. seems to be re-working of the Tim Roth series “Lie To Me’ … for me, absolutely nothing of interest in this series, especially since DiNozzo ‘s character still appears to have yet to grow up .

  7. MMD says:

    I just can’t get beyond the Dr. Phil and Jay McGraw connection.

  8. ndixit says:

    I’ll give this a shot. I’ve liked MW in Dark Angel and NCIS so I will try this just for him.

  9. Jeanne says:

    I don’t care for Dr. Phil, but he’s not going to be on the show. I’ve loved Michael Weatherly in Dark Angel, and in NCIS. I can get past the Dr. Phil aspect, and enjoy watching Michael.

  10. drhenning says:

    is there a CBS show that sites like TV Line actually like?? I guess Good Wife but that’s gone now.. . BrainDead from the Kings also was liked but like TGW, it got low ratings..

    • PatriciaLee says:

      We watch and enjoy many CBS shows, and I have never noticed TVLine not liking them as a pattern (not like the intense dislike of Houdini & Doyle by Slezak which is the gold/lead standard, imho–loved that show). And I have been glued to this site since I jumped the TVGuide ship when CBS took it over (which is kind of funny, in retrospect), being Michael Ausiello brought over the old TVGuide mood I was raised with in the 50’s and 60’s. Of course, I don’t read the articles of shows I don’t watch, other than to skim and wonder what people see in them. There was nothing wrong with saying the show sticks to the formula without adding anything unique [so far…duh!] “…blueprint untouched.” Hey let the bleak Game of Thrones, Breaking Bads, etc. win the awards. We want to feel good and bubbly with our TV experiences. But that’s another post.

  11. Matt says:

    I love Michael Weatherly and I want to see him do new things and can’t wait to see what he does but I’ll pass. I also fully support any actor wanting to move on after 13 years but I’m very confused why this is his career choice?

    Did he need an early exit strategy from a multi year deal he had previously signed? I can’t imagine they just threw money at him until he signed on to do just anything. I’m sure he’s making a killing off NCIS and I imagine there will be syndication money for a show like it in years to come…

    I just feel like he could easily find work even though I’m sure CBS was dying to keep him.

  12. Lyn says:

    I like MW and was intending to watch this, but if it’s based on Dr. Phil I’ll give it a pass.

  13. Jeanne says:

    If Dr. Phil was going to be on the show I could understand people not watching. It’s loosely based on his first career, and he won’t be on the show. I’ll gladly give Michael a chance on his new show.

  14. Kristina says:

    Pass. I was hoping to see him move on to something different, since I enjoyed him in Dark Angel but don’t care much for CBS procedurals. Oh well, maybe next show.

  15. PatriciaLee says:

    The previews looked like DiNozzo in Charge! I’m on board.

  16. Larc says:

    Judging by the trailers so far, I’m not expecting much. Definitely not a fan of know-it-all Dr. Phil, so nothing even loosely based on him sounds appetizing. I’ll try Bull at least once, but expect to be switching channels after NCIS in a couple of weeks max.

  17. auntiemm says:

    I love NCIS and like Weatherly but no thanks. Even if every client is innocent the idea of manipulation to hedge your bets is a turn-off. I’m going with This Is Us.

  18. MissEllys says:

    I’m most interested in seeing Episode 2…the pilot is pretty much all laid out there, so I’ll skip that and start watching on Episode 2.

  19. Andrea says:

    I have read nothing, and I do mean nothing, that is a ringing endorsement of the MacGyver reboot, and TV gave that a B-. There’s no way I believe Bull is worse. I’m going to at least start watching to support Michael Weatherly.

  20. GP says:

    This show was already done years ago with Tim Roth. It sounds like a carbon copy! Roth’s version was tedious and lowered one’s IQ with every single viewing.

    This will flop and flop hard.

    • PatriciaLee says:

      On the other hand, the Roth show was based on psychological research and an actual person, so we psych majors were stoked! It was loose…but fun!

  21. Anne Millard says:

    I’m looking forward to this show with one exception- Mr. Weatherly should be clean shaven, as he was in NCIS. The “grunge” look just doesn’t look good on him. (Or any one else for that matter…)

  22. tara says:

    That’s a good idea. Support the drunk driver who was rewarded for his crime with a lead role in a brand new show.

    Interesting how so very few people actually know about it. Mike can’t even bring himself to admit it.

    But yep. Michael drove drunk last year, gave us a million reasons for leaving NCIS, and they were all crap.

    My guess is he left because of a clause in his contract prohibiting the conviction of a federal offence…. but could he or CBS admit it?

    No. Who wants backlash for giving a convicted drunk driver a BRAND NEW TV show?!

    So Michael gave us a dozen reasons for leaving….. and then swept his crime under the carpet.

    NO ONE TALKS ABOUT IT.

    Who got paid for their silence, I wonder?

    P.S. to tvline monitors: If you delete this comment about Michael’s DUI…
    I shall go public.
    Enough with kissing this jerk’s butt already.

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      TVLine has never been a place to discuss actors’ personal lives. If you need the name of a celeb gossip site or two, someone in Comments can perhaps help you out, “Tara.”

      • tara says:

        This is about both an actor and a television station’s attempts to white wash over Michael’s DUI and pretend it never happened. Any and all negative feedback since has been buried, by CBS and on Google. No one talks about it, least of all Michael.

        It is about the fact that Cote de Pablo was let go by CBS because she wanted equal pay, whereas Michael drove drunk…. and was rewarded with a brand new show.

        And it’s about the fact that he and CBS gave us all a bunch of reasons for leaving NCIS, & didn’t mention the DUI once. Why?

        Because then CBS would have to admit they – a station against drunk driving – gave him a new contract after he committed a crime and violated his old one.

        It’s a lesson in context, & a lesson about the drive of greed, sexism and hypocrisy being alive and well at CBS, “matt”

        • Tory says:

          FWIW Tara–

          1) Never has any one but the Cote fanatics said her leaving was about money She wouldn’t say up until right before the season ended when she claimed that the politics and the scripts didn’t make her happy. No mention of money then either.

          2) MW was known by NCIS show runners and CBS to be leaving for nearly two years I believe, definitely long before season 13 started and long before he was pulled over driving under the influence of alcohol.

          3) I don’t know and I suspect you don’t know what the repercussions were in his personal and professional life for drinking and driving. I know what some gossip has said about why he was drinking and what happened on set. Don’t know if it’s true but you can research the trashy gossip sites for the info.

          4) CBS executives have very publicly stated that they support and appreciate MW for his hard work and great attitude and tremendous talent for quite a few years. He wanted to leave NCIS and for years they said they wanted to keep him on CBS. Think back to when he signed his last contract for NCIS. He got a production deal too. Bull is a reward to someone who stuck it out for 13 years playing the second banana. It’s more than time for him to have his own lead in a show. I’m thrilled with the support CBS is showing MW and all the coverage he’s getting. It’s AWESOME!

          5)I don’t know why so many people want to be negative about the show before it has even aired its first episode. Lots of shows that are considered popular started off hesitantly with people who weren’t sure if they would watch it. Try to be less negative and more waiting to see, Tara.

          6)Finally, I’ve seen the previews and have been astonished by how different Bull is from DiNozzo. I loved MW’s portrayal of Tony D., but I won’t be watching NCIS anymore. The show has been going downhil for years, IMO — every since they pushed the Tiva romance and destroyed plots as well as character. Never thought Cote de Pablo had much talent as an actress but wow! does MW ever have LOADS of talent. Bull sounded interesting to me from the get go. There’s no Dr. Phil (who I don’t like), just his early experiences are referenced. MW is so different in this show, from what I can see. I also love how his behavior during interviews is so much more low key.

          MW deserves a new show and is really going to rock us in Bull.

          • tara says:

            As someone who has seen a lot of drunk driving accidents and the devastation that results in peoples’ lives being ruined…No, I will not be adopting any wait and see attitude, thanks.
            Michael lost me as a fan when he drove drunk. Period.

            What the heck is wrong with you?
            “Less negative?”

            About someone who played a COP… & DROVE DRUNK? Most average Joes who get DUIs lose their jobs.
            This man gets a new spanking show, and I oughtta be “less negative” ?

            If he had hit and killed someone with his car… would your heads still be up his butt?!

            Dude drove drunk.

            One might think that in today’s age, this would be enough.
            But noooooo…. all the ladies still think he’s “FANTASTIC!!”

            He’s really got y’all snowed.

          • snoopmarymar says:

            “Tara”, or whatever name you’re using right now:

            Get over it. NCIS is make-believe.

            De Pablo left. Weatherly left. Tony and Ziva are NOT REAL.

            The amount of time you spend ranting incoherently about two FICTIONAL characters and the actors who left the ROLES, you could channel Forrest Gump and run across America.

            Don’t even try to claim this is about a DUI. We all know it’s about your crazed need to try and “save” a fictional character for an actress who wants nothing more to do with the role. We all know you attack the man’s wife every chance you get. We all know you have a sick obsession about the man, the woman, and making fiction reality.

            Get help. All you do is stalk boards and make everyone around you miserable and exasperated because people you think are your barbies and your property didn’t do what you want.

            Neither of the actors need you to defend them, care what you think or frankly know you exist. You’re not even a face in the crowd to them.

            What you are is becoming the kind of person people get restraining and protection orders against.

            What you’re doing is not a healthy place to be and it’s not a good way to live your life.

            I’m sure you’ll deny you’re up to your usual tricks with multiple accounts. Save it. We all know.

            Get help before you wreck your life and lose everything.

        • Pete says:

          So it’s true that de Pablo left in a snit at the last minute because CBS wouldn’t pay her what she thought she was worth?
          .
          And who did she want equal pay with?
          Mark Harmon – The star of the show and a major draw, who brought millions of his fans to NCIS along with his talent.
          Michael Weatherly – the man whose salary she was tracking, albeit a year behind due to their staggered contract negotiations, yet it was rumored that she did earn more than him at one point. A man who also brought a decent sized fanbase to the show, who is well known away from the show and who did a massive amount of publicity for the show.
          .
          Or perhaps she wanted pay parity with Pauley Perrette or Sean Murray, who earned less than she did? You can’t argue same salary for the same work because they didn’t all do the same work. And it is an industry where personal value is based on more than comparative workloads. She has proven just how valuable she is to the industry since she left – if CBS really did allow her to “get away” because they didn’t pay her “enough”, then it was a sound business move on their part.

          And Weatherly’s DUI was never mentioned among his reasons for leaving purely because it wasn’t one of them.

      • JM says:

        Well said, Matt. “Tara” and her tirade belong elsewhere.

    • Pete says:

      Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
      .
      Weatherly was stopped, posted over the limit, pleaded “no contest” (you know, admitted it) in court and was handed a punishment. All public knowledge. He didn’t get into an accident and he didn’t harm anyone. No doubt if he had killed someone then everyone would be all “he didn’t mean to do it”, “he has to live with the guilt” etc.
      .
      People like you call for greater punishments for the “what might have happened” than for when it did happen.
      .
      What mistakes of yours can we dig up and try to get you be fired for?

    • You seem to be laboring under the delusion that DUI is a federal offense. That casts an aura of doubt over everything else you have to say. You also threaten to go “public” about an alleged DUI on THE INTERNET. Done and done. The jerk here seems to be you.

  23. Anne Millard says:

    We are looking forward to this new show but wish that Mr.Weatherly would appear clean shaven on it, the “grunge look” just doesn’t look right on him. (Nor on most other men, either…)

    • anna says:

      the ‘grunge’ look – which isn’t what he’s wearing by the way – whatever…
      MW looks great with longer hair and a bit of facial growth….The change in appearance is a wonderful physical way to indicate a different character.

  24. K. Bergeron says:

    Critics are a pain. Why not let us watch for ourselves and make up our own minds before dinging a show days before the pilot airs? I may end up agreeing with your opinion and that is fine, but I will not base my reaction on yours.

  25. Mr. Smith says:

    Its going to be entertaining to some of us, whether it changes the CBS formula or not. Going to enjoy it.

  26. anna says:

    Saying that this follows the ‘CBS formula’ based on seeing a single ep is more than a bit myopic and narrow-minded. From everything said in interviews about the character and the show premise, this assumed ‘procedural’ is really more about the process after the arrest than finding the criminal.

    Here’s hoping Bull is a success. & this is from someone who is NOT a fan of the CBS formula. The only CBS show I’ve watched is NCIS and I picked that up because it was sold to me as a buddy-cop show and not a formulaic procedural.

  27. Glenda r says:

    It is nothing like character I truly enjoyed on nice. From what I have seen in tonight’s bull,
    I am NOT interested. Michael westerly is very boring as bull.

  28. James S says:

    A stinker. If Weattherly has any sense, crawl back to NCIS.

  29. Dawn Kaufman says:

    Just got done watching Bull and it’s a really good show. Loved it

  30. Gayle Jacobson says:

    I just watched the debut of “Bull”. I loved Michael Weatherly as Dinozzo on NCIS. I think he would be excellent in almost any role…..just not this one. He did not come across as the lead. The story did not engage my interest, in fact, I kept switching channels throughout. I think Weatherly needs to find another show to highlight his talent. I will find something else to watch after NCIS.

  31. Renee G says:

    Love it!!!!! Michael owned tonight!! This show is thought provoking, well acted and well written!! Love to see Michael calling the shots and owning his own series. Excellent series and perfect new role for him.

  32. Lois Graves says:

    I was pleased with the debut of Bull. I like the story line the humor and of course the acting. Bravo for Bull !

    • Lois Graves says:

      Sadly in the real world people make mistakes, I don’t think MW should have to lose his career, and I don’t believe he was rewarded for that mistake.He is a good actor and earned this opportunity.

  33. Philip says:

    So my cynical take, He is paid to get people off, guilt does not matter, Child molester, rapist murderer does not matter as long as he can get the person found not guilty, .. This is a good thing?? I am willing to give ” Tony” a chance but think about it. Regardless of the premise Bull’s job is to ensure the guilty go free.

  34. Dee says:

    Horrible.good supporting cast to bad you didn’t think to use them.

  35. Barbara Sterling says:

    From what I’ve seen I have no love for this show……I WILL watch it a few more times to see if it gets any better….if not than it’s bye bye Michael Weatherly.

  36. Craig says:

    S-U-C-K-S……..needs to become a crepe erase rep LOLOLOLOLOL

  37. Barbara Snead says:

    I loved Bull. It will be a hit. Another great show for CBS!

  38. Mike says:

    Sorry! This show sucks. back to NCIS!

  39. I love Michael Weatherly, but not this show. And I really don’t like that they separated the two NCIS’s to put this in there. This is more of a show for Tim Roth, not Weatherly.

  40. Smitty says:

    Awesome show will watch all season

  41. Bill says:

    Think Michael needs to shave, beard is to light to be trying to give the unshaven look. Other than needing that, thought it was a pretty good start. Saving judgement for later.

  42. Ernie says:

    old-school here. Liked it; reminds me a little of Mentalist and old Perry Mason. Now I will have something good to watch and NOT reality tv.

  43. Evelyn says:

    We always enjoyed Michael Weatherly as DiNozzo. He is good on Bull. Unfortunately, the first episode, at least, was a snooze for us. Too much technical lingo, came across as dry and boring. If you are checking the clock to see how much of a show is left, it has lost you. Maybe the problem is with the writing, I don’t know. Hope they can pull it off. We Want it to be good. Weatherly deserves a good showcase for his talent. Hopefully, it will improve.

  44. Christine says:

    I liked this show, big fan of Michaels. I hope people give this show a chance, all new shows can have a slow start, but get better once they get in their groove

  45. Love Michael Weatherly, but I’m not sure his new character is going to pull it off in this format. the pilot was OK. CBS procedurals tend to succeed on the strength of the writing, and the relationships between the characters. If there is real meat on the bones of the formula, this may go far. If not, it will fizzle. But, Tony finally left to lead his own team. Let’s see how he does.

  46. Mila Kina says:

    I love this show. Stoked Michael Weatherly’s back. I’m definitely watching this every Tuesday. :)

  47. Sarah says:

    I thought the premise and story line was fresh and intriguing. Looking forward to next episode and hope the program can maintain the momentum. Weatherly was his new character – and I was always amused by DiNozzo. Glad it follows NCIS. I would give it a B.

  48. reddkl says:

    Watched it and I’m not crazy about it. I’ll give it 2 more shows and unless it improves, I’m done with it.

  49. This show made me sad in that, once again, rich people can pay to “get off”. It seemed that he was going to get his defendant off whether he was guilty or not. That just isn’t right. I love Tony D. But I will have to watch a couple more “Bulls” to decide if I like this character, but I am against the principle.

  50. to bad that the writing isn’t equal to the acting abilities of the actors/ sad when lack of creative ideas are drowned in way to much sex perversity. won’t watch again/