CBS was in damage control mode a few months ago when it was revealed that actress Eliza Dushku acquired a $9.5 million settlement from the network due to harassment allegations against her Bull co-star Michael Weatherly. Weatherly didn’t admit to full-on harassment on set but did say he regretted his behavior, which was “both not funny and not appropriate.” Dushku, having done nothing wrong, exited the series while Weatherly remained on as its star.
Now comes word that Steven Spielberg and his Amblin Television are exiting the series, departing what has become a pretty considerable cash cow for them. And what has CBS decided to do with Weatherly and his series?
Well, they’ve decided to keep it on the air of course. Bull will return for another season. In fact, its return was never really in doubt. The most successful director of all time may have decided to stop producing the show but CBS thinks that Bull is worth another shot.
So here are, smack dab in the middle of the Me Too movement, witnessing that sometimes money speaks louder than words for networks and their executives. CBS had the opportunity to send a message: this sort of behavior won’t be tolerated, no matter how successful a TV show is. Instead CBS is deciding that the controversy is worth the ratings. It sends a very bad message to young actresses, women viewers and the country at large. It says that if a TV show is a money maker it has the chance to survive even the most embarrassing and offensive scandals. Once the country has moved onto the next news cycle, these sort of things can be forgotten — even if you lose the biggest producer in the history of the medium.
Spielberg was right to move on from Bull and CBS should have done the same. Not to rip on a show I’ve never watched but something tells me that the network could have found a different legal drama to replace Bull — there’s only about half a million of them in existence. I understand that this show is apparently a ratings success but at what cost? Why isn’t CBS willing to put their money where their mouth is and follow Spielberg’s lead? Stand up, take a stand, make a point. Or...don’t. Try to ignore the hubbub and hope that people forget, that’s CBS’s plan.
Remember, Weatherly himself admitted to acting inappropriately. He is taking responsibility for doing wrong. And his actions provoked CBS to settle with Dushku for $9 million. While a drop in the bucket for them, that’s a huge chunk of change. Obviously the man’s actions were a bit more than an offensive joke. So why are they deciding to ride or die with Weatherly? Why not prove that they value the safety and well-being of their performers more than dollar signs? Is the power of producer Dr. Phil McGraw that strong? You know who needs a doctor? CBS, because someone needs to find out why they’re missing a backbone.