Bull returned for a fifth season on CBS Monday night, but showrunner Glenn Gordon Caron was concerned the show might never get off the ground during the coronavirus pandemic. In an exclusive interview with PopCulture.com, Caron pulled back the curtain on the production and explained why he felt the pandemic had to be handled in the show, even though it is not a medical drama. The coronavirus pandemic has touched the lives of everyone, including Michael Weatherly's trial scientist Dr. Jason Bull.
In May, CBS and the studio asked Caron if they would handle the pandemic on the show. At the time, Caron thought the virus would "probably be in the rearview mirror" by July, so he did not think Bull would have to. Caron also thought people might want to watch the show as an escape from reality. But when the pandemic "didn't reach a sort of a natural crescendo" as Caron expected, the Moonlighting creator realized they had to cover the pandemic's impact on the New York City court system. "You may think, well, you can ignore that. But truthfully, we can't," Caron said. "We spend a lot of time actually shooting at the courts and they closed the courts."
After it was decided that Bull would be coming back for another season, Caron really started to wonder how that would work at all. The unions would not let anyone participate if safety measures weren't taken and the studios had not figured out how to film safely just yet. "In order to make television shows and movies, which is what I do for a living, you bring 200 people together in a closed space and you work 12 or 14 hours a day," Caron explained. "So it seemed like, oh my gosh, this may be the end of something. People aren't going to movie theaters, people aren't congregating. How can you make a television show?"
That anxiety of how to work during a pandemic was reflected in the Bull premiere, which showed Bull slowly becoming more and more worried that his work at the Trial Analysis Corporation (TAC) might be impossible to pull off. The episode also began with the characters under the assumption the pandemic would end soon. There "was this sort of great, frightening, unknown and of course, we had no idea how long it was going to last," Caron said. "And it's certainly lasted far longer than I think anyone suspected. And put aside all the political machinations, but it's been quite a thing."
According to Caron, the Bull production did take a look at how other shows shot in New York, like Blue Bloods, were filming during the pandemic. They compared gossip and the shared concern that they might not end up filming again. "I have to emphasize there was an 'if ever' in there," the executive producer explained. "Once you start talking about all the different protocols that are necessary to make a television show and have it be safe for everybody, there was a moment when you look at it and go, well, they're never going to pay for this. They're never going to pay to test 200 people, three times a week... Gosh, it's going to take so much longer to shoot because we have to keep everybody separated from each other, all these sorts of things that you have to deal with."
Caron's solution to dealing with all these concerns was to come up with a unique musical ending. At the end of the episode, the cast lip-synced to a David Cassidy song as they showed off the safety measures being taken to film the show for viewers at home. Viewers will have to keep tuning in to Bull on CBS Mondays at 10 p.m. ET to see how the TAC team continues to work during the pandemic.