CBS has adopted a sexual double entendre as the tagline in posters and billboards for one of its new fall shows in an apparent effort to interest women in the show’s lead character.
So I feel obligated to ask women: Does this kind of approach to promoting a TV show really work?
The show is called “Bull” and it stars Michael Weatherly, one of the long-time stars of “NCIS,” also on CBS and one of the highest-rated shows on TV. In “Bull,” he plays a man named Jason Bull, a psychologist modeled loosely on Dr. Phil McGraw. “Bull” premieres Sept. 20 on CBS.
In the new show, Dr. Bull is the mastermind behind a legal consulting firm in New York that uses the doctor’s highly tuned intuition about people to select jurors, devise lines of questioning for defense counsel and generally to choreograph defense strategies for well-heeled clients that manipulate the key trial actors -- most notably the jury -- into arriving at not-guilty verdicts. Phil McGraw established a real-life version of this firm in Texas in the 1990s.
So the tagline that has been adopted to promote the show is this: “He’ll get you off.” Get it?
Well, let it be said that Michael Weatherly is certainly a handsome devil -- in the traditional TV leading man kind of a way. But will watching him in this new role really have that effect on women (or possibly some men, I feel obligated to ask)?
In a story about the show’s billboard ad campaign, The Hollywood Reporter concludes that the tagline was devised to draw the attention of women (although there’s no one from CBS quoted in the story confirming this).
So, women: Is your attention drawn yet?
Personally, I have no way of judging the effect of this kind of approach on women, but I can try anyway. One thought that comes to mind is this: If a man were to use a line like this in a bar, let’s say, on a woman he just met, he might end up with his face slapped and/or drenched in his or her drink. “Hi, I’m a psychologist who advises defense lawyers,” this man might say, then adding lasciviously: “I get people off.” Cue drink in face.
Or maybe I’m old-fashioned. Maybe lines like this actually work sometimes. I’m the last person to ask since I have never in my life used any lines on women in bars, so I don’t really know how these things turn out.
Here’s another old-fashioned consideration -- the question of taste. Here again, I am likely sadly behind the times on things like this. My first thought after reading this tagline for the first time was that it was crass. But as I have mentioned a number of times in previous columns, questions of crassness or tastelessness are not even worth posing anymore in this coarse, anything-goes society in which we live today.
I was not attracted to Michael Weatherly in any way when I decided to watch the premiere episode of “Bull” yesterday (available to TV columnists on the CBS press site). I watched the show in order to be better informed about it before writing today’s TV blog.
Did the pilot -- or, more to the point, the show’s lead character -- live up to this sexualized tagline being used on the “Bull” posters? Well, Jason Bull is certainly roguish and self-confident. He is depicted as brilliant, of course -- in that unrealistic way that only a TV character could be.
Genius characters like Bull usually have a pretty high opinion of themselves and always believe they’re right even when everyone else in their world thinks otherwise. This trait marks Bull as obnoxious. But in the same way that some characters have long been described as gruff-but-lovable, Bull is one of a growing number of obnoxious-but-(supposedly)-lovable characters on TV.
Maybe women are attracted to men like this or maybe they aren’t. I really wouldn’t know.