Archive | September, 2016

Fall 2016 Review: Bull

23 Sep

bull1

A few words Bull generally, and then a few words in particularl on the most noteworthy thing about this episode of Bull, which is a couple of strange decisions in terms of the episode structure.

First, Dr. Jason Bull is a super duper expert jury consultant (don’t call him that though, he hates that term!). Basically what it means is, the very rich hire him to do an insane amount of research about who to put on their jury and about the actual jurors that get selected, how those jurors think, and what the lawyers can do to sway the jury, premised on the fact that the jury is judging the case as much by how they feel as by the facts.

Dr. Jason Bull is a superhero at this, but to help him, he’s assembled a superteam. He’s got, from what I can tell in the first episode where the team is sorely underused, a lawyer who tests out arguments in front of a mock jury, a fashion consultant who makes sure the client conveys the right message through his look to the jury, another psychologist, an investigator, and a hacker who does lots of illegal things to help the team dig up dirt on everyone involved in the trial.

In the premiere, the team works for the son of a rich guy accused of a murder on a boat party and they convince the client that his lawyer’s strategy is wrong and to implement their approach instead. This includes a combination of the team both finding out a whole bunch of new helpful facts as well as steering their argument to the jury in a way that the most influential juror, who they’ve pinpointed through research, will come out on their side. Surprise, surprise, it works, the defendant gets off exactly as they predicted, and our heroes get ready to move on to their next case.

Now, here are the stranger parts of the episode.

The series starts with a whole bunch of regular people talking about their impressions of juries and the justice system, leaving with the idea that the system is more beneficial to rich people. This led me to believe that Dr. Bull would be taking on lots of pro bono clients to right the wrongs done to the 99 percent, but that’s not what happens at all; his first client is the son of a crazy rich guy, so I’m not sure what the goal of that opening was.

The biggest problem with the nature of this show is that it’s hard to make the jury consultant the star for the logical climax of a legal show; the key witness’s examination and the closing statements. That’s the case here; the way of having Bull stay involved is that he handpicks the associate to take the lead over the original main lawyer, because he feels she’ll be seen as more sympathetic to the jury, and he gives cues to her as the examination (in this case of the defendant) goes on. But it’s still tonally strange and feels anticlimactic; their strategy kind of just works and it’s a character who is not in the main cast who is the star of this key moment.

The defendant is acquitted, which is a win for our heroes, but then instead of just ending, the show had two strange additional endings which both feel out of place. First, Bull rushes out to talk to the most important influencer juror. This is fine, he wants to ask her what made the difference, maybe get some input for future cases, whatever. But then instead of that, this turns into some weird moment of learning more about what makes Bull tick. The juror says she can tell that Bull came up through pain and grew up in a difficult household. Whaaa? After an episode with exactly zero personal revelations about Bull’s past, out of nowhere there’s some seemingly obligatory reference to Bull having a difficult childhood because this backstory is somehow required for these genius characters.

Second, unless I turned around during the wrong second while I was watching, which I’m concerned I did because this was so incongruous, there was zero talk the entire case of who the real killer was. There was very briefly a reference to a necklace the victim possesses, and how it may not have been found on the victim. But the show ends with police cars and Bull pulling up to the house of the mother of the best friend of the defendant who we’ve seen for all of a minute or two, as some sort of satisfying conclusion that we’re supposed to realize both that she did it, why, and have it all feel like all tied up. Instead it just feels very strange.

 

 

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Fall 2016 Previews and Predictions: CBS

20 Sep

CBS

(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall (edit: spring, now) television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (spring, again)(reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

  1. Renewal – show gets renewed
  2. 13+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed
  3. 12- – the show is cancelled before 13

Additional note: Since more and more series on network TV are following cable models with set orders for shorter seasons, and mid-season replacements tend to have shorter seasons in particular, I’ll note any planned limited runs in my prediction section for each show)

Kevin Can Wait – 9/19

Kevin Can Wait

Kevin Can Wait, but boy us viewers sure can’t. I end up saying “you know what this is” more than I want to in these descriptions, which feels lazy, but I’d like to think that when I say that, you, the TV viewer, can conjure up a better idea of some of these shows because they’re just so obvious than I can possibly describe in a couple of sentences. And is this ever one of these shows. Kevin James’ character, maybe he’s named Kevin, just retired and he’s full of hilarious punch lines that would be at home in any stand up comedian-led mid’90s sitcom or, for that matter, in King of Queens, which this basically just is. Fat funny white husband who doesn’t do any work around the house has a younger, more attractive wife, and a couple of kids who he has to relate with.

Prediction: Renewal Of course this shouldn’t get renewed. But it’s CBS and it’s Kevin James. I made this mistake already predicting the early demise of Last Man Standing on ABC, which believe it or not, is entering its sixth season.

Bull – 9/20

Bull

The folks at CBS have pulled off quite the coup here. They’ve created a lawyer show where the main character isn’t even a lawyer! No, Micheal Weatherly (getting his just desserts after serving as sidekick on NCIS faithfully for a decade) is a champion jury consultant who believes that trials and won and lost by the composition and messaging delivered to the jury, rather than the presentation of facts. His enemies are the lawyers who try to tell him he’s wrong, and that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Weatherly portrays a classic superman who charms everyone who comes into his presence while being amazing at his profession and delightuflly idiosyncratic. You can imagine a commercial for the show that’s just a montage of several characters saying “Bull” in different tones.

Prediction: Renewal – This is so fucking generic that there’s just as good a chance it fails. But that’s everything on CBS, right, and Weatherly has earned his shot with the network. Oh, and by the ad test, this and Kevin Can Wait are the far and away most advertised CBS shows in NYC.

MacGyver – 10/23

MacGyver

He’s baaaack. A super duper young spy (about a decade younger than Richard Dean Anderson was when he got the job) who succeeds while, you know, MacGyvering things; the trailer plays very clearly on the primary gimmick of resourcefully pulling together unlikely materials around him in any scenario to accomplish his task and being a quick wit while doing show. He’s got a couple of allies, but basically the trailer focuses on the action scenes.

Prediction: Renewal – for all the gimmicky and likely mediocrity, I’ve said before, there’s always a surprising shortage of legitimate action shows on television.

Man with a Plan – 10/24

Man With a Plan

CBS continues to just churn out the CBS-iest shows. Here’s how they do it, Man With a Plan-style. Take a 40something white male one-time TV star (Matt LeBlanc). Give him a nuclear family (two or three kids) and place him in a scenario that you would not expect from a 40-something white man in the 1980s, which in this case means that when his wife goes back to work to become the primary breadwinner, he’s got to take care of the kids, full-time. A man! As a primary caretaker! Think of all the zany misadventures! Audiences are never going to believe this one! Just the preview has me wanting to write more words about how offensive and terrible it is, but I’ll wait for an actual episode.

Prediction: 12- Please. Even by CBS standards. This trailer makes Kevin Can Wait look progressive.

The Great Indoors – 10/27

The Great Indoors

 

 

Pure Genius

 

Fall 2016 Previews and Predictions: NBC

19 Sep

NBC

(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall (edit: spring, now) television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (spring, again)(reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

  1. Renewal – show gets renewed
  2. 13+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed
  3. 12- – the show is cancelled before 13

Additional note: Since more and more series on network TV are following cable models with set orders for shorter seasons, and mid-season replacements tend to have shorter seasons in particular, I’ll note any planned limited runs in my prediction section for each show)

The Good Place – 9/19

The Good Place

The high concept drama is a dime a dozen, but rarer is the high concept comedy. Kristin Bell wakes up, finds out from Ted Danson that she just died and has been elevated to the “good place” a take on a version of conventional heaven where all people who have lived extremely good lives go and get to live in a community with others like them. Apparently, a mistake was made however, and she was confused with a human rights lawyer. She was supposed to probably go to the not-so-good bad place, but she’s going to live amongst a bunch of goodie-goodies and maybe hope not to get caught. Oh, and possibly most importantly, it’s from Parks and Rec’s Michael Schur.

Prediction: Renewal – Is this likely to last? Not necessarily, but it’s from Michael Schur and stars Kristin Bell and Ted Danson so I’m going to be rooting for it and hopeful that NBC will give it some leeway.

This is Us – 9/20

This is Us

It’s a melodrama about some people. The hook is that instead of being about a family or group of friends or coworkers, the show focuses on a cadre of people born on the same day including Sterling K. Brown and Milo Ventimiglia. The show follows them through happiness, sadness, births, deaths, you know; life. Looks like it’ll rate high on the crying scale.

Prediction: 12- Network family melodramas do catch on occasionally (Parenthood lasted a cool five seasons) but the odds are definitely against them. They’re not procedural and they don’t have the over-the-topness or suspense hooks to keep network viewers coming. Leave them to cable (or whatever amazon and Netflix are).

Timeless – 10/3

Timeless

This is a variation of a concept that comes up every few years, the time-travel show. Seven Days, Timecop, Quantum Leap, Time Trax. (I could have sworn there were more, but it might just be my imagination because it’s such a classic idea) A team of, in this case, three people use top-secret government technology to time-travel to chase down a supercriminal who is using that same machine to mess up history, which could result in butterfly effects and what not. They’ve got to do whatever’s necessary to make sure history continues to exist as we know it.

Prediction: 13+ Splitting the difference. With these average looking shows, it’s always just a guess.