Plot: Dr. Jason Bull (Michael Weatherly) is the crown jewel of Trial Analysis Corporation, a firm that aids in courtroom preparation. Bull has incredible insight into not only how the justice system works, but how the human mind operates. He and his colleagues are often only called when things look bleak, as they have a remarkable track record when it comes to strategic blueprints. Bull’s natural instincts are crucial to the process, but he is also surrounded by a team of experts and the best tech money can buy. The firm has skilled lawyers, former intelligence agents, and tech innovators, so if a strategy can be formulated, this is the group to do so. In order to turn the tide in these long shot cases, the squad looks at every aspect of the case, both legal and personal, taking care to learn all there is to know about those involved. After all, if you can know how someone thinks, there’s a chance you can steer those thoughts. Knowing the odds and patterns of various elements can help you control and even influence the process, which is why Bull lands the toughest cases around.
Entertainment Value: In a crowded sea of detective shows, cop programs, and other crime based series, new angles are constantly explored. In the case of Bull, we are taken inside a firm that analyzes every aspect of a potential case, from the legal issues to the lawyers involved to the witnesses and beyond, to try to flip hard to win cases into more manageable ones. The concept is an interesting one and doesn’t seem super far fetched, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The process seems cold and sterile, even whe it deals with sensitive issues and hot button topics. I can understand to an extent given that the detachment is what makes Bull so good at what he does, but it also robs the stories of some power. The show is also such a well oiled machine in terms of narrative, that there’s minimal tension. I mean, even when a terrorist plot unfolds, Bull stays calm and refuses to abandon his work. Again that suits the character, but dampens the rest of the material around him. Even the toughest cases never present much of a problem, so you know things are going to spin in the right directions, as Bull and his crew are simply infallible in most instances. A hint here and there of dead ends or failure can be picked up, but they’re infrequent and always resolved.
I do wish there was more conflict and potential for more unresolved cases, as it would add some depth and perhaps development opportunities. Bull is a passable lead, but I wanted to know more about what makes him tick and in this format, just small leaks of exposition trickle in. The focus is squarely on the cases however, so once you learn that, you can drop expectations of personal arcs. Some stories do persist to an extent, but not enough to make the supporting characters of much interest. Bull and a few key team members are given the lion’s share of attention, outside of some minor subplots that pop up from time to time. Michael Weatherly is fine in the lead and performs well, but isn’t given much chance to really shine. As I’ve said, the character is pretty shallow and we are told to focus on his abilities more than his personal side. The rest of the cast is more than capable, but again, not given much to do. The focus on cases over characters is going to be great for some and not so good for others, so you preferences will color how well the show works. I found this first season to be passable, with some forced storylines and a douchey hipster vibe at times. But for fans of crime shows and courtroom dramas, it is a brisk watch, if forgettable.