‘Bull’: The Story Behind CBS’ Dr. Phil-Inspired Show

Everyone is familiar with Dr. Phil McGraw and his syndicated daytime talk/counseling show, but few are aware of McGraw’s former life. However, that will soon change this fall when CBS presents the new drama Bull, which is based on the life of Dr. Phil. Sort of.

Bull is a drama that is inspired by the early career of Dr. Phil long before he ever appeared on Oprah. Phil McGraw was once trained in forensic psychology and served as an officer of the court.

“The average person doesn’t get a fair trial, and in the field that Dr. Phil pioneered, it looks at the application of psychology in the judicial system and what motivates people,” Bull executive producer Mark Goffman said at a recent Television Critics Association event.

Also at the event was Dr. Phil, who serves as one of the show’s executive producers. He quickly pointed out that Bull won’t be completely factual.

“This is not autobiographical, this is not biographical,” said McGraw. “I want everyone to know that this is fiction.”

According to People, Michael Weatherly, who plays the role of Dr. Jason Bull, seconded that statement, saying, “I’m not actually playing Dr. Phil. I’m playing a guy in a world that Dr. Phil understands better than anyone. He is a really fascinating character. He is part Machiavelli, part P.T. Barnum.”

After starring in the CBS drama NCIS for 13 years, Weatherly’s new role is totally different from his last one. Dr. Jason Bull leads a team of experts at Trial Analysis Corporation. CBS describes Dr. Bull as “brilliant, brash and charming” and is “the ultimate puppet master” combining psychology, human intuition, and high-tech data to learn what makes people tick.

“I like the way the show tracks how we did the right thing and tried to take the higher moral ground in these cases. We kept the moral compass. Sometimes the law doesn’t always get it right,” McGraw tells Deadline. “We didn’t always get to pick our clients. But there were two types of people we wouldn’t represent: child molesters and drug dealers. Aside from that, we fought best for our clients.”

McGraw, who was on the set every day during the shooting of Bull’s pilot episode, says that he was really impressed with Weatherly.

“He so got it, so quick, and started layering and texturing this character and everything involved in it,” said Dr. Phil. “We just hit the lottery, he’s an absolute home run.”

Actress Annabelle Attanasio agreed.

“There’s nothing in entertainment like a star in a star part. Michael is a star and I think we created a star part for him.”

However, Weatherly admitted to being self-conscious when meeting Dr. Phil in person.

“Imagine that you know you’re about to talk to someone who’s an expert in human behavior. That must be a blast [for him]!”

In the TV series, Dr. Jason Bull employs a diverse team of experts at Trial Analysis Corporation, including Benny Colon (Freddy Rodriguez), Bull’s brother-in-law and lawyer; Marissa Morgan (Geneva Carr), a neurolinguistics expert; Danny James (Jaime Lee Kirchner), an investigator; Cable McCrory (Annabelle Attanasio), a hacker responsible for finding cyber intelligence; and Chunk Palmer (Chris Jackson), who helps improve their clients’ appearances and readies them for trial.


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Bull premieres Tuesday, September 20 at 9 p.m. on CBS.

[Image via CBS]

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