Why CBS Renewed Bull Despite Allegations Against Michael Weatherly

michael weatherly bull season 3 cbs
(Image credit: CBS)

Bull made headlines for some very unpleasant reasons back in late 2018 with the reveal that CBS paid former Bull actress Eliza Dushku millions following accusations of harassment against star Michael Weatherly. Such negative buzz could have motivated CBS to axe the series, even despite Weatherly's former NCIS costars defending him. Still, Bull was renewed for Season 4, but it didn't come without consequences.

Steven Spielberg, who had been an executive producer on Bull, and his Amblin TV production company pulled out of the show, reportedly due to the allegations of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct leveled against the star. The departure fo Spielberg and Amblin felt like a big statement about the situation.

At the Summer TCA Press tour, CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl weighed in on why CBS deemed it worth continuing Bull despite all the negative buzz and loss of Amblin, saying this:

Well, you know, I can't speak for Amblin, but to us it's a show that does very well. It's a very popular show. I think more than 10 million people watch every week. Michael is loved by our audience. And even after these allegations came out, people continued to watch. So it's a popular show that we want to keep on our air, and it's a very good show as well.

Apparently, Bull's popularity was valuable enough to CBS that it was worth renewing for a fourth season. The ratings didn't suffer, and Michael Weatherly had had a presence on the network for a very long time thanks to his time as Tony DiNozzo on NCIS before he moved to his own primetime series.

Despite Michael Weatherly as a CBS MVP, there were still big reasons to doubt that Bull would score a renewal for Season 4 due to how weighty Eliza Dushku's accusations were and the fact that she received a settlement. Dushku stated that she was led to feel uncomfortable on the set of Bull due to behavior exhibited by Weatherly, reporting instances of Weatherly saying that he would spank her, referring to her as "legs," joking about threesomes, and joking about having a "rape van."

Eliza Dushku was reportedly going to join Bull as a regular prior to making her allegations, and she expressed a fear to her reps that Michael Weatherly would get her fired for speaking out. She was written out of Bull shortly thereafter, but reached a settlement that entitled her to $9.5 million, or how much she would have made as a regular over four seasons on Bull.

Although Bull may well continue for as long as CBS is happy with the ratings and popularity, Kelly Kahl did share that changes have been made in the aftermath of the controversy, including with regard to showrunner Glenn Gordon Caron:

We talked a lot about this in May, discussed it with the press. You know, we found out about the settlement kind of at the same time you did, and we took a 360 view of the entire situation when we found out about that. We wanted to look at it with fresh eyes. What we found was in Michael's case, no incidents, no complaints in his time at 'Bull' and none on either side of the isolated incident on 'Bull.' You know, he was at the time remorseful and apologetic. When the settlement came out, it was made public, he was remorseful again and apologized. He is undergoing coaching right now, leadership coaching. He is taking his responsibility as the head of a show to make the set a positive place to work. And we were just there last week, and the entire cast and crew had just undergone some training before the start and they're all in a good place. Glenn is also undergoing leadership training, and it has started and it will continue in the future.

The incident resulted in leadership coaching for Michael Weatherly, who "was remorseful" and apologetic about what happened. Hopefully the show will be a positive place of work for however much longer it lasts. For better or worse, the cast and crew at Bull also received training. Interestingly, Bull was not the only CBS series rocked by sexual harassment allegations in recent years.

Bull returns for Season 4 with Michael Weatherly at the forefront on Monday, September 23 at 10 p.m. ET on CBS. It follows the premiere of two freshman shows hitting the Eye Network in the fall, among many others.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).