“Bull” returns at a fever pitch for its fifth season Monday night on CBS with an episode that confronts COVID-19 in a way no other new or returning series has yet attempted.
A number of shows have been making their way back to network TV over the last few weeks following production delays resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions.
Many of them are coming back to the air with storylines reflecting the current state of the world. Face masks are being seen almost everywhere in the returning shows (including “Bull,” pictured above). By contrast, shows in which masks are not part of the social landscape seem oddly out of touch.
Clearly, the COVID era is presenting challenges to the writers and producers of our network shows. And the producers of “Bull” have risen to the challenge with a season premiere episode that is like no other that has been seen so far in the late-to-arrive new fall season.
The TV Blog has chronicled most of TV's returning shows in recent weeks, and Monday night's episode of “Bull” is the best of the COVID bunch.
“Bull” is the one-hour drama series about a jury consultant in New York -- Jason Bull (played by Michael Weatherly) -- who uses his knowledge and keen perceptions about human behavior to advise attorneys who hire him on how to compose the best and most favorable juries from pools of prospective jurors.
He is a genius in the mold of so many of the lead characters in network television dramas. And like many of the others, Bull is eccentric, egotistical, stubborn, contrary, sometimes obnoxious, but also fiercely loyal to those close to him such as the employees of his firm.
As the season premiere of “Bull” opens, it is March 2020 in New York and Bull and his colleagues are just beginning the process of adapting to this new situation brought on suddenly by a pandemic few people understood at the time.
Most significantly, New York City courts were closing down and trials -- the lifeblood of Bull and his small company -- were being postponed. For how long, no one knew.
The episode is about what happened next in the months that followed, all the way up until the present day.
And this is where a detailed description of the episode comes to an end because providing such details will rob the episode of what makes it special -- namely, its ability to surprise.
The manner of storytelling that has been taken up by the producers, writers and cast of this show is unorthodox. The show uses a number of devices that are seldom seen on mainstream network TV shows.
The people who created this episode and then pitched it to their CBS overseers (if this is what happens with these things) are to be congratulated for doing so. And if someone at CBS had to sign off on it, then hats off to that person too.
The result is a rare thing for mainstream TV -- a show that breaks more than a few molds, and emerges from the process as something new, different, and above all, worthwhile to spend an hour watching.
The fifth season of “Bull” starts Monday night (November 16) at 10 p.m. Eastern on CBS.