Fall 2016 Review: Bull

23 Sep


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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