July 24, 2017

Meg Farrough

It’s hard not to bypass a good crime drama these days and with the British putting out ever-captivating (if sadly short-lived) gems such as No Offence and Broadchurch, the American networks have their work cut out for them.

One of the latest to hit Channel Ten from the other side of the Pacific is CBS’s Bull, a lighthearted crime drama inspired and produced by America’s favourite psych, Dr Phil. Starring the ever-charming Michael Weatherly, along with a beautifully diverse cast including Hamilton’s George Washington, Christopher Jackson, the previews left me with high hopes that American crime drama had finally got it’s groove back with a new and original show to excite legal buffs like myself.

Fortunately for this delighted Legal Studies student, it does more than just deliver an original crime drama. Jury analysis is on the rise for those who can afford to have a psychologist hand-pick those that will decide their fate, and the show highlights the pitfalls of this latest addition to an already unbalance justice system.

Now, by no means is the jury system perfect. It is much less a random selection as it is a carefully picked group out of an already limited pool, but you’re here to find out whether you should watch a show, not to be schooled on the imperfections of a legal system. Certainly, Bull delivers on entertainment, but in doing so, one can’t help but notice how it might change the perceptions of those watching the show.

Firstly, not everyone who is accused of a crime is innocent. So far there have been murders, manslaughter, civil suits and malpractice suits, and every person accused has simply been misunderstood, wrong place wrong time, or (even more worryingly) falsely accused based on falsified evidence. Now, I’m not saying that everyone’s guilty, and I’m not saying corruption of power doesn’t exist, but as a general rule of thumb, people aren’t charged for murder because of one reporter’s idea of a good story. Usually, they did actually do it. Police aren’t, as we may sometimes like to believe, idiots. So that’s number one.

Number two, juries are anonymous, for good reason. When the murderer eventually walks free, you don’t want them coming to your house to exact revenge because you voted for a guilty verdict. However, in the show, not only does Bull’s team know the names of the jury before they have been selected, they then have their resident hacker dig up every bit of dirt they can on them, from behavioural patterns, to family, to what they ate for breakfast this morning. Make no mistake, if you do that in real life you will be put in prison. I certainly hope Bull’s fees are high, he needs the money to pay for his lawyer on call. Solving crime by committing crime? Still illegal.

Jury science is a real thing and, really, the whole game in the courtroom is to manipulate the jury to believe your version of events. Bull takes this to a new level and it does so fantastically. While we all hang out for the first verdict that isn’t to Dr Bull’s liking, we are, however, suitably amused by a quirky group of support characters, brilliant one-liners and story lines that are relatively predictable, but do leave us with the satisfaction of knowing that we solved the case before they officially revealed the killer. There are enough twists in every story to make it interesting and little by little we’re starting to get to know our favourite characters.

Certainly, Bull is entertaining enough to advise watching if you like the idea of Twelve Angry Men crossed with Lie to Me, but make sure to watch with a grain of salt. The show is inspired by real life. The psychology is real, the rest… fiction advised by truth. If you want a real live jury analyst one day, don’t expect the same perfection seen in Bull.

Kudos for the diversity of the main cast, the reliance on strong female characters and the accuracy of the psychological and legal frameworks used, but Bull loses points on the creativity of the cases and the predictability of its endings. Another American crime show, with a nice twist that focuses on the legal side as opposed to the police work. If you’re not doing anything else with your Sunday nights, it’s worth sitting down to. Three and a half gavels from this judge and stay tuned for the inevitable unsatisfactory jury verdict.


Meg Farrough

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