CBS bosses have addressed the controversial decision to renew Bull following sexual harassment allegations against star Michael Weatherly and have promised that new procedures will “go beyond what we’ve done in the past”.
The procedural drama was picked up for a fourth season despite the allegations made against Weatherly by Eliza Dushku, which resulted in a $9.5M settlement with the actress.
CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl said that following Weatherly’s apology, it wanted to make the renewal decision “through a fresh lens and new eyes.”
“When we were looking at a decision and what to do with Bull, what happened was something that a lot of us didn’t know about. So, when it came time to make a decision, we wanted to look at it through a fresh lens and new eyes. We wanted to reassess and look at what happened,” he said.
Speaking at the broadcaster’s press upfronts events, Kahl admitted that Weatherly made a mistake but that he “owned” that mistake. “He’s indicated to us that he’s willing to take coaching and training that we deem necessary for him to create a positive environment on the set. We looked at the totality of his work on CBS. He’s been with CBS for 14 years and there were no complaints before and none after. He took everything seriously and wants to move forward. He wants to make it better,” Kahl added.
The Bull controversy erupted in December when it was revealed that former cast member Dushku had reached a $9.5 million settlement with CBS — then overseen by Les Moonves — over claims she was sexually harassed by Weatherly during her time on the show. Dushku detailed her allegations in a stinging Boston Globe op-ed, including what she described as the toxic atmosphere on the CBS procedural and lewd comments that Weatherly allegedly made toward her that led her to filing a formal complaint. She was let go from the show shortly thereafter.
Weatherly denied having been part of Dushku’s firing, but admitted that he engaged in behavior that was “both not funny and not appropriate,” saying he was “sorry” and that he regretted the pain he had caused the actress.
Last week, Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television pulled out of the show. Spielberg, Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey are no longer attached to the show after Amblin TV co-heads Frank and Falvey served as executive producers on Bull for its first three seasons.
CBS said that it is not looking for another producer to replace Amblin and the show will continue to be produced by CBS Television Studios in association with Stage 29 Productions. Glenn Gordon Caron, who served as showrunner last season, will return.
Created by Dr. Phil McGraw and Paul Attanasio, Bull stars Weatherly as Dr. Jason Bull in a drama inspired by the early career of Dr. Phil McGraw. Brilliant, brash and charming, Dr. Bull is the ultimate puppet master as he combines psychology, human intuition and high-tech data to learn what makes jurors, attorneys, witnesses and the accused tick. Gordon Caron, Paul Attanasio, Dr. Phil McGraw and Jay McGraw are the executive producers.
During the breakfast, CBS execs discussed how the company has put in place a set of new procedures to ensure that another situation doesn’t happen. “It’s going to go beyond what we’ve done in the past,” Kahl said.
Earlier this month, Deadline revealed that CBS had put together a plan to greatly expand the company’s human resources operations with the goal of making access to HR representatives easier and less intimidating.
The new procedures will include “an independent, third party reporting system for all employees – both in CBS offices and on sets” with “professionals outside of CBS” receiving complaints, “providing another confidential reporting option for our production employee base.”
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