Bull (2016) TV Pilot Review

Inspired by Dr. Phil McGraw’s early career and his founding of one of the most prolific trial consulting firms of all time, Bull follows a charming and intelligent man who combines psychology, high tech data and human intuition to learn what makes jurors tick and thus win cases for his clients.

Warning there may be spoilers ahead.

From the start, Bull throws us right into how people view the justice system and their opinions on innocence versus guilt. This sets up the show well, reinforcing its message that ordinary citizens are who decide the outcome of trials. And yet there are a few people that think the system is rigged which is further proved throughout the episode by Dr. Bull’s manipulation of the jury members. It’s an interesting foresight into what the show will be and works well as an opening.


The pilot then immediately delves into the case with an unnecessary use of social media which hopefully will decrease as the series progresses. I understand that the show is meant to be high tech but it’s good enough that it doesn’t need to bring up a character’s Instagram feed or Facebook page. The case itself isn’t the most interesting but it works well for the pilot and showcases Bull’s abilities as well as his interactions with other people.

Bull is a highly fascinating character. On the surface he appears to be just another cocky, smart person but there’s so much more to him than that. We see glimpses of this in the pilot but we definitely don’t have the full picture of who he really is yet. The hints about his dark and painful past were exciting and it will be interesting to see how this plays out in future episodes. Perhaps what makes Dr. Bull such a great character is how much Michael Weatherly seems to relish playing him. He is obviously eager to take on another role, having played Tony DiNozzo in NCIS for 13 years, and it shows. He brings a lot of charisma to the part, making Bull both captivating and likeable, and has fantastic chemistry with his co-stars.  His scene with Bess, played by the brilliant Samantha Jones, was particularly enjoyable to watch. Whilst Bess only served as a guest star, Jones made a stand out impression and I’m hoping they bring her back for more episodes.

The episode understandably focuses heavily on Dr. Bull and developing his persona. Unfortunately, as a result we don’t get much insight into the other characters but that’s not surprising for a pilot. Hopefully in upcoming episodes we’ll get to see more of the team. An intriguing character is Bull’s former brother-in-law Benny, played by the very talented Freddy Rodriguez. It will be interesting to see how their dynamic changes when discussion of Bull’s divorce occurs. Their relationship at the moment seems quite jovial but that could soon turn into something darker if Bull’s ex-wife were to make an appearance.

Although the case, cast and characters worked well in the pilot, the episode wasn’t without its flaws. There were some very cliché and cheesy lines, Bull’s speeches to the boy accused of murder were full of them. There was also perhaps an overshare of facts and statistics. When Bull says he likes a challenge, his co-work spouts off about it being one of the top 10 traits of a successful person. There’s more like this and it seems unnecessary. The show is entertaining enough without these educative pieces of information. It also makes the whole thing feel less natural. That’s not to say Bull isn’t a well written show; it is. The episode flows well and has a lot of humour. One thing that worked particularly well was having the jury “talk” to Dr. Bull while the lawyers were presenting their cases. It’s just that the scripts need a little tightening for the show to reach its full potential.

Potential is something Bull has tons of. It’s your typical CBS procedural with a twist. With a great cast and a strong premise, I predict big things for this compelling series.

Pilot Rating: 3.5/5

Categories: Reviews, TV

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