RingSide Report

World News, Social Issues, Politics, Entertainment and Sports

Lockdown, Lowdown… Ringside Report Looks Back at the TV Show Bull


By Donald “Braveheart” Stewart

There was something about Bull that I really liked. I was not alone amongst the target audience – people who liked Special Agent Anthony Di Nozzo, from NCIS, otherwise known as Michael Weatherly. It used the legal drama tropes in a slightly more nuanced fashion; it was coming at the usual with an unusual premise.

The eponymous lead character, Dr. Jason Bull, is a trial scientist. His specialism is in how to pick jurors likely to be sympathetic to his client using psychology and law. Building a company behind that idea was Bull’s gift to himself and others and his presence in the drama showed just how good a television actor Weatherly was. It ran for 6 seasons from 2015 to 2022, had a splendid post COVID episode which touched upon musical theatre and built a fairly solid cast around it. Whilst it managed to touch upon zeitgeisty topics it was never hidebound by them or a worthy addition to any debate but there were a few corporate digs and some tricky episodes looking at sensitive issues.

It was, however, a fairly safe watch.

And yet for a British audience the idea of jury manipulation being ever so slightly different to jury tampering, where you could work out how to manage/rig the jury in your favor was ever so slightly… icky. When, in the episode where he brings pizzas into the room next door so that the jury could smell them and reach a conclusion quicker – which would benefit his client – the sense was that justice was for sale, at the cost of a decent slice…

But Bull was never meant to be the poster boy for the American justice system, and you could argue that there were plenty times he put his neck out to get the right result rather than the one he would get best paid for.

This CBS produced series saw a stellar cast alongside Weatherly as we got Benjamin “Benny” Colon, the lawyer, played by Freddy Rodriguez who left after series 5, and Chester “Chuck” Palmer, played by Christopher Jackson, who became the main lawyer, after Benny left but was already working as lawyer during his time with TAC – he got his degree from a night school stint. The team was completed across the 6 series by Danielle “Danny” Jones played by Jamie Lee Kirchner and Marissa Morgan, played by Geneva Carr, then there were Cable McCrory played by Anabelle Attanasio, who was replaced for season 3 onwards by Taylor Rentzel played by MacKenzie Meehan and finally, Isabel “Izzy” Colon played by Yara Martinez turning her recurring appearances season 1 to 4 into a major role for the last two seasons – by remarrying Bull! She is also Benny’s sister!

Their company, the Trial Analysis Corporation, (TAC) was loosely based upon the early career of a real scientist – Dr. Phil McGraw – who was an executive producer. TAC was not just about selecting the right jury but advising the defense lawyers what defense would work best with the jury – some of us are naïve to believe the truth!

Bull had failed the bar exam twice, so could not practice law himself, but still wanted to pursue his dream of working within the law – perhaps more with the spirit of the system rather than the letter of it – and got a couple of PhDs to help fulfill his dream. Benny was his initial legal sidekick, and his abilities were soon recognized politically as he started to campaign to become the New York District Attorney. However, his strong faith and belief in justice stopped his campaign when he realized his opponent was being framed and he was going to be the main beneficiary; he withdrew from the race rather than benefit from corruption. After season 5, the character and the actor left the series under something of a cloud. Benny was sorely missed.

Marissa was ex Homeland Security – which came in pretty handy as she was also psychologist, expert in many other fields, including sex therapy, which came in less handy but was a reference that added some spice. As second in command it is her leaving, then returning which forces Bull to contemplate bringing his involvement in TAC to an end.

Chunk is a former American football star, fashion stylist and by the end of it all – the gay lawyer – he was always gay, but becoming a lawyer was part of his character’s growth. It was an interesting development, and it made a lot of sense to note the lack of gay characters on the American football field but it became slightly less than convincing as it could have developed into more of an issue or just been left there as a fact. It kept coming in and out, which was no bad thing, but there was nothing truly new to add to the LGBTQ+ debate.

As a former NYPD detective who also worked for the FBI, Danny added the investigative nous whilst tech came from former hacker, Cable McCrory, whose death in season 3 saw her replaced by cyber expert and former colleague at Homeland Security of Marisa’s, Taylor.

The end came when Weatherly wanted to go and pursue other options and so with the star name falling off the front door, it was time to close TAC in the televisual world. It was not without backstage controversy which included Weatherly being accused of making sexually suggestive comments to a fellow actor and the loss of Freddy Rodriguez and a showrunner after season 5 due to two internal investigations.

In the UK, it started on FOX but transferred to Sky and that is precisely where I got to watch it.

It was an easy watch. Weatherly, however, did carry most of it. The scripts did rely heavily upon his character and the rest were given standard – gay man in a hostile environment, single mom fighting custody, woman scratching at a glass ceiling – kind of backstories. I would have loved more equity in the balance of the piece, but it was not to be, and the season 6 finale could have been predicted. As to what Weatherly will do – Bull aired for the final time in 2022, we await news. Perhaps as we are waiting to hear what he does next rather than his fellow cast members it tells us something about how heavily it lent upon him…

British television is a curious affair. Begun through the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) it is funded through the universal license fee. In essence, if you wanted to watch the television, you had to pay the license fee. The BBC got it all and is state run, albeit at arms-length. Then came along commercial television in the form of Independent Television (ITV) in 1955. Designed to bring a bit of competition to the BBC, it was paid for through advertising but still free to air… well they didn’t add another license fee to it. By the time that I was born, 1965, there was BBC1, BBC2 and ITV. And that was it. It was still years before Bruce Springsteen would moan that there were 55 channels and nothing on but here in the UK, we kept this going until, in 1982, we added a fourth channel and in 1997, a fifth. With sparkling imagination, they were called Channel Four and ehm Channel Five… In between came Sky and we understood what Springsteen meant. And so, my childhood and leading up to early adulthood we had three options… But the programs made were exceptionally good. And so, here is some critical nostalgia as the lockdown has brought a plethora of reruns, new formats and platforms and old classics trying to make their way back into our consciousness as broadcasters flood their schedules with classics… or are they classics at all? Let me take you through an armchair critics’ view of what we have to see, to find out… Welcome to the Lockdown Lowdown…

Click Here to Order Boxing Interviews Of A Lifetime By “Bad” Brad Berkwitt