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There's something about Michael Weatherly that's very watchable. Your eyes are drawn to him on the screen. It's his presence. He never blends in, but yet, he doesn't come off as too showy. It's a delicate balance, and it's one he struck for years on NCIS. Now, in a different role, he's attempting to do the same thing on Bull, and for the most part, both his acting and the larger show succeed.
At its most basic, Bull, which was created by Dr. Phil McGraw and Paul Attanasio, is a hybrid between a legal procedural and a crime procedural. It gives us a victim and a culprit, and it lets the case wind through the judicial system until we have some kind of resolution. It follows a group of consultants who do everything from track down leads to create analytics-driven mirror juries to help swing a case. Basically, it's just people who want to catch new bad guys every week. In that way, Bull has a very classic feel, but in other ways, great pains have been taken to make the format feel as fresh and modern as possible, to mixed results.
Bull's pilot opens with man-on-the-street style interviews. Random people are asked for their views on the criminal justice system. It's a sleek little presentation that later evolves into a multi-screen presentation. The same thing happens later for a series of Instagram-type photos as well. It's a little flashy and maybe a little bit dumb, but it also gets the point across that Dr. Bull, that's Michael Weatherly's character, and his team of investigators and jury consultants can analyze and even hack into anything related to technology.
There are various times throughout the pilot in which Bull seems to be attempting something it's not completely sure about. For example: during several moments, members of the jury audibly dictate their inner thoughts to Dr. Bull. Will that be a device the show sticks with permanently? There's no way to tell at this point, just as there is no way to tell whether there will always fixate on one juror or flash a series of pictures across the screen.
Bull is a good show. I suspect it will be at least blandly enjoyed by pretty much everyone who watches it, sort of like its creator Dr. Phil's beloved talk show. But unlike that television staple, the pilot definitely is not a smooth and finished product. There is more trial and error to do here, and the success of the show will ultimately come down to whether or not those working on Bull decide this is good enough or whether they tweak in order to continually improve. If they do, this pilot could prove to be the starting point for CBS' next big ultra-popular procedural that runs for a decade or more.
Bull airs on CBS on Tuesdays at 9 ET/ 8 CT. You can catch the first episode on September 20th.
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