NEW YORK – CBS executives are defending last week’s decision to renew drama “Bull,” which came months after allegations surfaced about misconduct charges against star Michael Weatherly.
“We felt comfortable bringing “Bull” back on the air,” CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl said Wednesday.
Its fourth-season pickup came weeks after Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television, a co-producer of “Bull,” quietly pulled out in protest.
By ratings standards, the renewal was a slam dunk: The legal drama features a well-known star, Michael Weatherly, who spent 13 seasons on the network’s top drama “NCIS” before heading off into his own series in 2016.
But last year, news broke that Weatherly had made “disgusting” comments to “Bull” guest star Eliza in 2017. In a December New York Times report, the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” alumna said she felt “violated” by his remarks. She provided video proof and CBS quietly paid her off.
Eliza Dushku, right, got a settlement after she complained that comments from "Bull" coworker Michael Weatherly, left, made her uncomfortable. She was set to become a series regular, but was written off of the show. (Photo: CBS, Getty Images)
Dushku said that instead of making her a series regular as planned, producer Glenn Gordon Caron fired her out of retaliation for reporting the incident. CBS paid her a $9.5 million settlement, equivalent to what should would have made as a series regular on a five-year contract. But in exchange, she said she was forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement.
CBS Investigation: Network paid Eliza Dushku $9.5M after ‘Bull’ star Michael Weatherly’s sexual comments
Dushku’s payout was uncovered during the network-wide investigation that led to the ouster of CBS chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves over more serious sexual allegations.
“What happened was something a lot of us didn’t know about,” Kahl insisted at a press briefing Wednesday to outline the network’s fall schedule. “We found out when you found out. When it came time to look at (a renewal), we wanted to look at it with a fresh lens. First and foremost, we found Michael made a mistake with his comments. He owned his mistake, he was remorseful and he apologized again when (the story) came out.”
Kahl said Weatherly “agreed to training, coaching, whatever was necessary to do a good job on the set,” and said CBS brass was swayed by the “totality” of his 16-year tenure at the network and said they have “never had a complaint before or after. He was upset by this and wants to make it better. I believe Michael was honest in his remorse and believe people can make a mistake and recover from that.”
In its wake, Kahl said CBS has installed “a team of HR professionals visiting sets on a regular basis; they will be very visible and very available if anybody has any complaint or concern.”
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