Addressing the Television Critics Association on Thursday at the summer press tour, CBS entertainment chief Kelly Kahl was again asked to account for Bull‘s Season 4 renewal, which came months after allegations of lewd behavior by series star MIchael Weatherly came to light.
As reported in December by the New York Times, a third-party investigation into claims of sexual harassment made against former CBS CEO Les Moonves turned up papers showing that during Eliza Duskhu’s late Season 2 run, she lodged a formal complaint with the network after being on the receiving end of several lewd comments made by Weatherly. Days after Dushku confronted Weatherly himself about his behavior, she was informed that her character was being written out.
Dushku entered into mediation with CBS, which ultimately led to a $9.5 million settlement — the equivalent of what she would’ve earned had she become a full-time cast member for four more seasons, as envisioned.
Months later, as Bull was renewed for Season 4, it was announced that executive producer and Time’s Up movement supporter Steven Spielberg and his Amblin production company had parted ways with the show.
Kahl reiterated at TCA on Thursday, “What we found was in Michael’s case no complaints, incidents, during his time [on NCIS],” and that the actor was “remorseful and apologetic” about what happened with Dushku on Bull.
Both Weatherly and current showrunner Glen Gordon Caron are undergoing “leadership coaching” that involves “how to set a positive example for everybody,” Kahl said. “They want to be as strong as good and fair leaders as they can be, and this training helps them do that.”
“[Michael] is taking his responsibility as the head of the show to make it a positive place to work,” Kahl added.
As for why CBS stayed in business with Bull even as Spielberg saw cause to end his association, Kahl told TVLine back in May, “When we looked at the totality of the situation, we felt comfortable bringing it back on the air.” Thursday morning at TCA, he added, “I can’t speak for Amblin, but to us, it’s a show that does very well.”
Averaging 6.7 million viewers and a 0.75 demo rating in Live+Same Day numbers, Season 3 was down 40 percent from its sophomore run. In the demo, Bull ranked 12th out of CBS’ 14 in-season dramas. After the Times disclosed Dushku’s settlement, the audience stayed relatively steady for the back half of Season 3, down just 4 percent.
“It’s a popular show. Michael is loved by our audience,” Kahl said. “Even after these allegations came out, people continued to watch.”