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The last week before the big TV network upfront presentations is now coming to a close, which means a roller coaster ride of news breaks has taken over in the past couple of days. CBS unleashed a slew of series renewals and series orders, including a Season 4 pickup for Michael Weatherly's legal drama Bull. That good news was quickly overshadowed by the unexpected announcement that executive producer Steven Spielberg and his Amblin TV production company had severed ties with Bull.
The reason why Steven Spielberg, Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey have ceased executive producer duties on Bull goes back to the sexual harassment and workplace behavior accusations made against star Michael Weatherly last year. Back in December it was revealed that former Bull star Eliza Dushku had been paid $9.5 million in a settlement with CBS over allegations that she'd been harassed by Weatherly during her shortened stint on the show, and that she'd then been fired after filing complaints.
Steven Spielberg has been a firm supporter of the Me Too and Time's Up movements, and he reportedly had a meeting back in March with Eliza Dushku and the Time's Up head honchos. There, according to Deadline, conversations were had about ways to solve the power imbalance in Hollywood, and how to handle the widespread abuse and harassment that were being reported about with such frequency.
That conversation apparently stuck with Steven Spielberg, as he and his Amblin TV co-heads did not wait long after Bull's Season 4 renewal to go public with their exit. While it might not entirely seem like such a massive shock, it's actually quite huge that Spielberg and Amblin backed out, especially if it's because Spielberg personally didn't want to be associated with the show anymore.
A CBS procedural drama like Bull may not have a very high rating in the key 18-49 demographic, as those shows tend to skew older in average audiences. However, those older audiences help make CBS dramas some of the most lucrative syndicated series out there, and that's a big way for executive producers and other execs to secure themselves hefty paydays. As such, it was no small or financially negligible feat for Amblin's head trio to call it quits.
That said, because this is Amblin we're talking about, it's highly likely that the company and its executives do have a piece of the pie in terms of Bull's backend profits. So any DVDs or other merchandise from Seasons 1-3 would presumably still put some money in Steven Spielberg's pockets for years after this public exit.
The timing of Spielberg and Amblin's Bull departures is curious, considering Eliza Dushku's claims were first made in December 2018, and nothing much of note has come out in the meantime about the producers' thoughts on the matter. It's possible Spielberg & Co. were just waiting to get confirmation about Season 4 before going public. Even that feels off, though, since there was little doubt in most people's minds that Bull would be returning.
For now, Bull doesn't appear to be in any trouble of funding itself for Season 4, so CBS will likely come out of this situation without hurting too much. But knowing just how big of an industry icon Steven Spielberg is, Amblin TV's decision could influence other producers to make similar decisions for shows with controversial situations happening behind the scenes.
Through it all, Michael Weatherly has maintained his innocence related to most of the claims that Eliza Dushku made about him. He did admit to making some jokes that he thought were funny, though in hindsight, he understands that they were disrespectful, and he'd apologized for those.