I am writing this post on the day the new CBS television program, Bull, premieres. Bull is a program about fictional trial consultant, Dr. Jason Bull. Other than the movie Runaway Jury, trial consultants rarely figure into movies or television. There was a trial consultant episode on LA Law, and there have been docu – dramas about O.J. Simpson and other high profile cases which had segments about trial or jury consultants. But, to be the center of a heavily promoted program on a major network is a new thing for us in the trial consulting world. We are usually behind the scenes, out of sight, and low profile – and we like it that way. It is because of that low profile that we can do our work effectively. Therefore, the program, created partially by, and based partially on “Dr. Phil,” is creating quite a stir in our niche profession. The initial industry buzz on the program is negative; the reviews I have seen have been bad. Many trial consultants have been worried about the show creating a false impression of the work jury/trial consultants do. And, like Runaway Jury, from what I’ve read, it does. But, I am sure that cops find cop shows to be unrealistic. I mean, how many murders are solved in less than an hour, including commercials? How many DNA checks can be completed in 5 minutes searching all national databases? How many attorneys felt LA Law, or even Perry Mason, were realistic? None. Any profession portrayed in television or movies has to be fictionalized and sensationalized if any advertising is to be sold – that is what it is all about, right? So, the good news is that there will be greater awareness of the work of trial consultants. The not so good news is that some will think we have more power than we do or that we are more manipulative than we can be. But, I think I’ll reserve further comment until I watch a few episodes. Stay tuned for our running commentary.
There have been television shows, as well as movies and plays, about almost every occupation imaginable. One of the coolest TV shows, in my opinion, was Sea Hunt, starring Lloyd Bridges as an ex-Navy frogman. Sea Hunt ran from 1958 through 1961 and involved numerous exciting adventures of a SCUBA diver, Mike Nelson (portrayed by Lloyd Bridges), who seemed able to solve any crime, rescue anyone in distress, or accomplish anything, all the while, underwater! Thinking about it now, it was probably as far fetched during its years on TV as the current fan favorite, Bull. In fact, I daresay many military personnel took strong exception to the scenarios that were shown in the show, believing them to be more fantasy than reality. But that’s what TV is all about! Watching TV, for the most part, is a mindless activity that is designed to take the viewer’s mind off of his/her everyday existence. If someone who watches Bull believes it is an accurate portrayal of trial consulting, psychology, or life in general, then he/she has a lot to learn about the vast differences between fact and fiction. Some people who work in the field of trial consulting take themselves far too seriously, in my opinion, particularly because many so called trial consultants lack the credentials to perform their job professionally, ethically, and properly. It is rather humorous to me to observe the proverbial “pot calling the kettle black” when certain self described “trial consultants” criticize an actor’s portrayal of someone in my profession. Life is life; TV dramas are TV dramas. Sometimes these worlds overlap in ways that are realistic while, at other times, they collide in unrealistic ways. My take on Bull is that, like many TV shows I enjoy, it is equal parts bull, malarkey, and mindless entertainment. As an aside, I’m still waiting on Magnum, P.I. to take me for a ride in his red Ferrari and I’m still waiting on J.R. Ewing to invite me to the Oil Barons Ball!