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"I'm Dr. Jason Bull. I'm not a lawyer. I'm an expert in what's called trial science. I study the jury's behavioral patterns. I know what they're thinking before they do. Everything my team learns gets plugged into a matrix, which allows us to assemble a mirror jury that is scary in its predictive efficiency. The verdict you get depends on me. And that's no bull."
— Dr. Jason Bull's voiceover introduction to the show

Bull is a 2016 Law Procedural created by Phil McGraw that first aired on CBS on September 20, 2016. The show is based on Dr. Phil's early career as a trial consultant.

Michael Weatherly stars as Dr. Jason Bull, a brilliant psychologist who uses his intimate knowledge of human behavior to better understand what motivates a jury to decide in favor of one side or the other in court cases. Together with his team at Trial Analysis Corporation, Bull uses the science of human behavior and interaction to help his clients win in court.

The show ran for a total of six seasons, from 2016 to 2022.

Not to be confused with the 2000 TNT Wall Street drama of the same name.

This series contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Adele Bensimon keeps getting Bull's name wrong, referring to him as "Mr. Wool" and "Dr. Bill".
  • Accidental Truth: Bull needs to show a small-town jury that their negative opinion of the defendant is largely based on false rumors and gossip. His team spreads a rumor that a major developer is buying up land in the area to build a resort. When the jurors start wearing buttons opposing the development, Benny is able to reveal the truth and convinces them to follow the evidence rather than their biases. At the end of the episode Bull discovers that there really are plans for a major real estate development in the area.
  • Actor Allusion: Bull, in the premiere, mentions that he'd like to be addressed as "Boss". That is how his character, Tony DiNozzo, would address Gibbs on NCIS as well as a title Tony would hold on occasion. In "Never Saw the Sign", Bull even pronounces the name 'David' for Michelangelo's statue as 'Daveed', the pronunciation of the surname of NCIS character Ziva David, who was close to Tony.
  • Affectionate Pickpocket: Bull uses a classic handshake lift to steal Clyde Rutledge's watch before giving the man a bear hug as an additional distraction.
  • Amoral Attorney: In the second episode Bull discovers that the pilot's attorney has a serious conflict of interest. His firm represents both the pilot and the airline. If the pilot is found negligent then it shifts some of the liability away from the airline which means that the airline will pay less money in damages to the victims and the lawyer's firm will be paid more. It was highly unethical for the lawyer not to disclose this since he stands to gain a lot of money if he throws the case. Naturally, once the pilot is made aware of this, she fires him on the spot.
  • Army of Lawyers: Pete Peters hires a top-notch defense team to try and defend his son. Bull points out that this would actually work against them due to the appearance of a wealthy father sparing no expense for his unlikable son, making the defense unrelatable to the jurors. Pete takes his advice and only brings the head lawyer and one assistant to the actual trial.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In Stockhom Syndrome we are lead to believe the meekish glasses wearing man who is believed to be falsely convicted and we see going to jail is going to get killed or brutalized by the inmates who are more than twice his size. At the end of the episode, once it's been proven he really did do it, he stabs one of the inmates and shows he's more than capable of taking care of himself in an unnerving scene.
  • Big Red Button: TAC has one in their offices that will completely and utterly destroy their computer system. It is to be used as a last resort to protect their clients' data in case of a system hack or government raid.
  • Black Widow: A young attractive woman kills her older wealthy husband and makes it look like self-defense, all to get her hands on the entirety of his estate, which is worth $6 billion. She plans for everything... except for Bull.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Bull realizes a boy who killed his father at a golf course was under a hypnotic suggestion and targets the cult leader the boy was part of. It turns out it was actually the leader's daughter who had the boy with a trigger set off by his favorite song on a phone. Bull's lawyer has it rung in court so the boy goes on the attack, proving the theory. The cult leader yells at Bull for showing his daughter as a killer but Bull thinks he should be thanking him.
    Bull: See, your daughter? She thought the kid was with you that night, not his father.
  • Bus Crash: In the opening episode of season 3, it's revealed that Cable was killed in a bridge collapse.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Bull has had to correct people every now and then that he is not a lawyer. He is a psychologist. One or two criminals he's defended but didn't have evidence against, got themselves convicted when they confided an important bit of information to him, thinking Lawyer-Client Confidentiality would protect them. Because he's not a lawyer, this doesn't apply to him.
  • Chute Sabotage: The governor takes his closest advisors on a skydiving trip. Both his main and reserve chute fail to open. The instructor realizes what is going on and dives after him trying to grab him and use his own chute to bring them both to the ground safely. He runs out of time and both men die. The governor's wife then sues the skydiving company for negligence. Bull's team is trying to show that the governor's chute might have been sabotaged as that would mean the the skydiving company was not liable for the death.
  • Convicted by Public Opinion:
    • The defendant in episode three suffered from this, with many people convinced of her guilt because the maker of a popular podcast accused her of murdering her rapist three years ago, with incomplete facts to back up her accusations.
    • It happens again in a later episode where an arson and death is blamed on the defendant whose family was not liked in the town and in everyone else's eyes he's already guilty, even though he had never done anything to anyone but is automatically accused whenever anything goes wrong in the town.
    • Inverted in "School for Scandal", where the public has already decided Kara Clayton killed her husband in self-defense and therefore is not guilty of murder (even Bull thinks so until he speaks to her in person). Bull stresses they will need a jury with "intellectual curiosity", people who will come to their own conclusions.
    • It happens again in "Play the Hand You're Dealt" when a gambler, who's one of Bull's college friends is accused of killing a security guard in a First Nation tribal casino. He's seen by many in the small community as a nuisance and his attitude doesn't help him.
    • This is played with throughout "The Good One" when TAC goes in to assist the wife of a mob boss who wants to get murder charges off her younger son since he was forced to drive the car and he's studying to be a doctor, the first in the family to do so. Even the judge didn't give a damn until the mob boss himself testified as a character witness.
  • Curse Cut Short: Done twice to Chunk in "The Great Divide." The first time he says "She doesn't have a pot to..." The second time he whispers so the judge won't hear him.
    Chunk: This is such a bunch of...
  • Crime of Self-Defense: Kara Clayton in "School for Scandal" is brought to trial for shooting her husband when he nearly stabbed her to death. Only the audience knows that her stab wounds were really self-inflicted; in-story it at first appears to be justified self-defense.
  • Destroy the Evidence: In "School for Scandal", Kara Clayton shreds the latex gloves used to fire a pistol to kill her husband.
  • Didn't See That Coming: When Marissa's boyfriend, Kyle, turns out to be a con artist who scams her out of her money, Marissa is afraid to tell anyone because of how she, a trained investigator and former interrogator, could fall for such a scam she now sees should have been obvious.
  • Doctor Jerk: Discussed - Client of the week, Dr. Terrance Robeson is a surgeon with a god-complex and the skills to back it up, however he acknowledges that being a great surgeon is the only thing he has going for him, to the point he doesn't prep patients due to having no social skills.
  • Drunk Driver: Subverted. The accused in a vehicular manslaughter trial only had a single beer and was not legally intoxicated. However, this is still a major strike against him in a trial since it could be construed as evidence that he was careless and negligent in his driving.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Bull was originally supposed to imagine various characters turning to face him as they revealed their internal monologues. This was quietly dropped after a few episodes.
  • Easy Evangelism: Bull convinces Jordan and Susan to break up within minutes, despite what previously seemed to be a very intense relationship between them.
  • Eco-Terrorist: At the start of the episode "Dirty Little Secret", a bombing takes place that was said to be done by eco-terrorists. At the end, it's revealed that an international consortium is trying to frame them.
  • Enfant Terrible: In "Safe and Sound", the team finds out that Eric's youngest son Charlie is this and they dug up his internet history and found out that he had psychopatic tendencies to kill his older brother and make it look like he fired his dad's revolver as an accident.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The accused in a vehicular manslaughter trial does not remember seeing an electronic road sign, which is used against him to show that he was a distracted driver who was not paying attention to the road. Bull's theory is that the defendant saw the sign but it was showing irrelevant information at the time so his brain ignored it. He then has the defense lawyer secretly take down a sign in the courtroom, and none of the jurors remember what it said despite the fact that they have been sitting in front of it for hours.
  • For Great Justice: Although the show is about characters manipulating the justice system to tilt the odds in their favor, Bull will only take clients if he believes they're innocent and will do everything he can to make sure that the proper culprits face justice. He will also frequently step in and help people who can't afford his exorbitant fees if he feels that they're being screwed by the system.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Played with. Bull's business earns a lot of money and he pays his employees well enough to cover the cost of living in New York City. However, his team works out of a sizeable office that includes a large mock courtroom which is very expensive in New York City. When Bull brings in a $250,000 retainer from a new client, he is told that it will barely cover all his outstanding bills. When Chunk decides to go to law school, he realizes that he cannot afford to do it in New York City since Bull does not pay him enough to pay for tuition and maintain his current living standard.
  • Good Lawyers, Good Clients: TAC only ever represents victims of the legal system and people who are wrongly accused. Justified as Bull refuses to represent anyone he thinks might be guilty. Also averted in a few episodes such as "The Bad Client" where their clients are more unsympathetic.
    • Subverted in the two-part finale, in which the main conflict is TAC discovering that Ed Wilson is actually guilty and trying to find a way to prove it without violating attorney-client privilege.
  • Hello, Attorney!: Diana Lindsay and J.P. Nunnelly are both attractive and successful lawyers.
  • Hollywood Law:
    • There is actually no real evidence for probable cause to secure an arrest or search warrant at the end of "The Necklace".
    • Averted in the third episode, as evidence is presented at trial that the murdered's teammates were using steroids.
    • In "Kill Shot", the millionaire hires a hitman to kill him, because his life insurance won't pay out if he commits suicide. This isn't the case for most insurance, nearing Impossible Insurance-most life insurance will pay out for suicide if it's over two years since the policy began, to prevent people simply buying it then killing themselves so their beneficiary gets the money.
    • Bull has to fire Cable after she breaks federal law in "Keep Your Friends Close". Except she almost constantly breaks federal law with her hacking in order to win cases for him, and it's never been a problem before.
    • In "Witness for the Prosecution" there's a female drug dealer who faked schizophrenia for years, meaning she's been released every time the police arrest her. In reality, even if she couldn't stand trial or win by the insanity defense, they could still commit her to a mental institution as she's accused of murder (even assuming her faking it didn't come out). Dangerous mentally ill criminals (real ones) don't just get "let go".
    • In "A Higher Law" a priest is pulled over driving a church van that was involved in a fatal hit-and-run an hour earlier with a BAC above the legal limit. He tells the police that the perpetrator just confessed to him what they did and that he was only driving the van so that he could find the victim and make sure she is okay, but refuses to reveal who the perpetrator was because it would be violating the Seal of the Confessional. In the real world, mentioning what a penitent said during confession at all is a violation of the Seal of the Confessional, even if one doesn't reveal who the penitent was.
    • The suit in "Flying Carpet" likely wouldn't have gotten to trial, instead they could get it dismissed or win on summary judgment since the plaintiff's cause of action was very thin. Attractive nuisance doesn't apply, as the defense notes, while as a trespasser the plaintiff is fully liable for their action (even assuming that in fact the sign was unstable). However, then there would be no story, since winning the case in a single hearing isn't very interesting.
    • The episodes "Justified" and "Imminent Danger" both involve a woman who is facing manslaughter charges after killing an abusive significant other. In both episodes, the defense pleads self-defense even though, in both cases, the threat towards the defendant was not imminent and ongoing when they committed their alleged crimes (one victim was fast asleep when he was shot, the other was wounded and fleeing from the defendant when he was shot). In both episodes, the prosecution sets out to prove that not only was the defendant lying about the victim abusing them, but that the defendant was the actual abuser. In both episodes, Bull's team gets a not-guilty verdict after finding conclusive evidence that the victim was in fact abusive towards the defendant. In reality, this would be beside the point because in order for it to qualify as self-defense, the threat must be imminent and ongoing and the amount of force used must not exceed that which is necessary to neutralize said threat. While a judge would likely go easy on both defendants after it was proven that the victim was systematically abusing them, they would likely still be found guilty.
    • In more than one episode, Bull has violated attorney-client privilege and when called on it, simply said that he's not a lawyer. In reality, both state and federal courts have specifically ruled in the past that attorney-client privilege applies to jury consultants.
  • Hollywood Psychology: In the Season 2 finale, a criminologist states that psychopathic criminals commit crimes in a highly organized manner. In real life, experts say that psychopaths can be impulsive and lack self-control. [1]
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Errol Windmere sues Kerry Ketchum for patent infringement because he genuinely believes that she is using his life's work without compensating him. But, when the two get a chance to actually talk, Windmere turns out to be genuinely concerned for Kerry's sister (having studied her in the past) and quickly drops the suit upon learning that the drug in question was created using a technique he never thought of.
  • Hostage Situation: In "Stockholm Syndrome", a rogue mock juror (an ex-pharmacist) took most of the people in the TAC building prisoner.
  • Informed Attribute: The audience is repeatedly told that the verdict in the cases the series follows depends 100% on TAC's trial science and predictive software even though 99% of the time trial science utterly fails to help them and they only win by finding evidence proving what really happened at the last minute.
  • Insistent Terminology: Diana is the only person Bull lost to in court, but he insists he just "did not win".
  • Justice by Other Legal Means:
    • In "False Positive" Veridipoint manage to beat the case against them for causing Corey Rice's death through their faulty algorithm. However, Bull gets suspicious that they offered to settle even though they were winning and ends up uncovering wider corrupt business practices by Veridipoint. One anonymous tip later and Veridipoint is facing bankruptcy with their CEO on the way to prison for securities fraud.
    • The main premise of "The Boy Who Cried Murder" and "Safe Space", both of which revolve around TAC helping to sue accused murderers in civil court after failing to gather enough evidence to have them criminally charged.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Susan Bryant from Teacher’s Pet attempted to turn one of her students into this.
  • Loser Son of Loser Dad: Bull's father was a conman and thief. This made the family extremely unpopular in their small town and made Jason a pariah when he was growing up. When Bull returns to his home town, many there still want to treat him as a loser who will not amount to anything despite the fact that Bull is now a wealthy Doctor who is considered an expert in his field. This prompts Bull to take on the case of another local outcast who is accused of arson and murder primarily because his family has a bad reputation.
  • Mock Millionaire: Bull thinks he's finally landed a high-priced client, a woman accused of killing her rich husband for his $25 million life insurance. Bull goes to the mansion to meet with the family and his expert eye spots there's a lot of dust around and absolutely no staff. It turns out the husband had gambled away their money (including their daughter's college fund) and they were bankrupt and keeping up appearances. Bull is upset as this plays into a motive for the woman killing him. As it turns out, it was the man himself who hired a hit man to kill him so his family could be well off.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: In "School for Scandal", Diana and Bull are wearing one after sleeping together, when she asks him to help her with a case.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Bull defends an old psychiatrist friend being sued after one of his patients went on a shooting spree killing his office colleagues. Bull soon realizes his friend knew the guy was a time bomb and gave him the gun as he was in love with the wife of one of the victims and wanted the husband out of the way. Bull confronts the wife only to be shocked to realize she doesn't even know the doctor and the "love" was totally on his side. He thus gets her to trick the man into confessing on tape to what he did.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Clyde Rutledge is an example of how public opinion can turn negative if one isn't nice to others. He has his female associate pull a heavy trolley up the courthouse steps. The first time it is somewhat understandable since he is surrounded by reporters and is busy declaring his client innocent. The second time he refuses to help even as he sees her struggle. This is not only observed by Bull but also by two female jurors. Bull immediately realizes that they have to replace Clyde as the lead lawyer or they are guaranteed to lose the case.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Amaya Andrews is one for celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Madonna, who are known to adopt children from outside America as their own children.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Lacy, a young, dedicated teacher in the Bronx, is arrested, with five other teachers, for changing students' answers on standardized tests.
  • No "Police" Option: In the episode "Gone", Bull was told by the kidnapper not to call the police or he'll kill Astrid unless he's given the ransom money. This forces everyone at the Trial Analysis Corporation (TAC) to use their contacts in the banking sector and talk to civilians who may have security cameras to locate the kidnappers.
  • Obfuscating Disability: In "Witness For the Prosecution," a female drug lord kills a cop who no longer wants to work for her. It turns out that she has brilliantly faked schizophrenia for years, going so far as to act out in public talking to thin air and wild moves. Each time she's arrested, the court shrink buys the act and she's back on the streets. Bull, of course, sees through it and accepts the challenge of getting the woman to break the act to prove her guilt.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In-universe. A juror sounds like a New Yorker but when Bull overhears her on the phone with her mother, she is using her native Texan accent. This sends Bull into a panic since it invalidates her juror profile and he is angry that his team missed the fact that the juror is really from Texas.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: In the season 3 premiere, the team are thrown when, instead of aiding a young woman suing an insurance company over refusing her treatment, Bull is defending the company instead. They openly wonder if his recent heart attack has shifted him to now be about profits rather than helping the "little guy."
  • The Perry Mason Method: Averted for most of the murder cases. Even when one of the witnesses is the real killer, the case is rarely solved by having them confess on the stand. Usually, they're arrested on suspicion of murder after the trial is over and the defendant is found innocent by other means. However it is played straight in a few cases, such as "Fallen Idols" in which the real killer is called to testify so that TAC can confront him with the evidence against him.
  • Retool: Coupled with a change in showrunners, Season 2 features several changes including: the supporting characters' personal lives getting more focus, Chunk deciding to become a lawyer, Benny taking on more cases as a lawyer (despite previously trying to avoid doing so), and Bull's wardrobe getting slight update and his characterization becoming more animated.
  • Relationship Chart: The TAC team uses one with glass as a makeshift board to stick photos on. Marissa uses a red marker pen to mark things down in "Gone" to determine who's the likely culprit to kidnap Bull's baby girl Astrid.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The episode "It's Classified" is a striking resemblance to the Chelsea Manning case.
    • "Snatchback" is one for child abduction cases that concern Japanese nationals who kidnap their own child from their foreign spouse and fly to Japan since it didn't sign the Hague Convention until 2014. Russia is a HC member country in 2011, so the episode is incorrect on that detail.note 
  • Rogue Juror:
    • Bull talks about how a verdict is often decided by a single juror being enough of a force to sway everyone else to his or her side. For the Brendan Peters case, he targets Bess Johnson, believing that he can make Brendan seem enough like her own son and make her feel sympathetic towards the boy.
    • Discussed in "School for Scandal", when Bull finds out a juror is from the same town as the opposing lawyer and suspects she's a plant for this very purpose.
  • Saying Too Much: While interrogating a banker about a client who was scammed by brokers working for the bank, Bull is told that the bank can't give the money back every time someone complains, tipping him off that more than one person was ripped off by the bank.
  • Self-Defense Ruse: Bull works on a trial where the defendant, Kara Clayton, claims she shot her husband in self-defense when he tried to stab her to death. In fact, she stabbed herself before shooting him. The trope remains only attempted, though, because Bull sees through her.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Clyde Rutledge is fond of using flowery language while altering his voice to try and sound like Martin Luther King Jr.. He thinks it makes him seem impressive while literally everyone else thinks it makes him sound like a pretentious ass.
    Rutledge: As surely as the sun rises in the east, my client will be vindicated.
  • Shout-Out: "Name Game" has a pump-and-dump stock scam being doing by a well-established, successful bank. Cable says her knowledge of pump-and-dumps only go to the movie Boiler Room, and wonders how it will be explained to a jury without Vin Diesel and Ben Affleck.
  • Simple Country Lawyer: The TAC team travels to Texas where they enlist the assistance of Merle, a local lawyer who's more used to small-scale civil issues rather than high-stakes corporate lawsuits. He comports himself well with a bit of coaching from TAC. During the case, they go up against Diana, a much more experienced corporate lawyer who, nevertheless, plays up her familiarity with the townsfolk to try and sway the jury to her side.
  • Spanner in the Works: TAC's attempts to go up against WinGen Pharmaceuticals are hampered by the presiding judge not really having the patience for a long trial and rushing both sides through the case, preventing TAC from being able to conduct their usual research. Fortunately, Bull had several contingencies in place for just that sort of development.
    • This can happen if TAC goes up against savvy prosecutors.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: When Bull wants to give Chunk a raise, Marissa says they can't afford it. When Bull asks how that's possible, Marissa points out the massively expensive center they use and how much it costs to pay people for their mock juries and such, all of which adds up majorly. She adds that Bull living it up like he's fabulously rich doesn't help either so the firm is actually barely breaking even.
  • Straw Feminist: Wendy Anderson proclaims herself a women’s rights advocate by taking Susan Bryant’s case even though this means blatantly invoking Double Standard Rape: Female on Male only to immediately abandon her once it's discovered that Susan’s baby wasn’t Jorden’s.
  • Talking in Bed: In "School for Scandal" Diana discusses an upcoming case with Bull while they're lounging in bed post-sex
  • Teacher/Student Romance: In "Teacher's Pet", the plot is focused on the relationship between teenage Jordan and his former English teacher Susan, which causes a lawsuit from his parents against her due to the Hot Teacher situation when Jordan was going to a promising time as a basketball player.
  • Western Terrorists: "Justice for Cable" has TAC involved in a case where a Czech-based terrorist group is responsible for bombing the bridge Cable was on when her car plummeted to the water.
  • Wham Episode:
    • At the end of "Thanksgiving", Marissa uses TAC HQ software to secretly locate Kyle, a man who she's seeing after dating him for some time due to her bank and credit card accounts being emptied and maxed out.
    • "Truth and Reconciliation" has the NYPD arresting Arthur Craddick's son Leo for supposedly being involved in killing a NYPD officer who had previously investigated his case.
    • "Uneasy Lies the Crown" has Bull arrested for allegedly bribing a juror in a class-action suit against a smoking company.
    • "Goodbye" has Bull tamper with the jury votes in the trial of Ed Wilson. He's arrested, but Bull decides to step back from TAC since his actions violated several ethics rules.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Marissa gives it to Bull in the season 3 premiere when she realizes his heart attack is having him put profits ahead of helping those in need. She even snaps that what he went through is nothing like what the sick woman they're trying to ruin is going through.
    Bull: How can you say that?
    Marissa: Because you're rich. And everyone can't have everything...but somehow people like you and people like Mr. Hitchcock always manage to get theirs.
    • Indeed, Hitchcock himself gives it to Bull when he pays his monthly fee as "money is important...sometimes it can even make you feel better about things you might otherwise regret."


Video Example(s):


Leaving it behind

TAC concludes its case with Ed Wilson after Bull himself tampered with the jury votes since he can't handle attorney-client privileges that Ed killed someone in cold blood. Bull leaves his glasses behind, a symbol of his ties to his career with TAC (He's the founder) in providing jury consulting and defense attorneys now that he's not allowed (for the meantime) for working within the court system.

How well does it match the trope?

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