By Katherine James
CBS announced this week that they are “picking up” BULL for another season. So…that means that in the court of public opinion, in which BULL is the most watched new series of this season, the jury has decided it is having a great time watching this show.
As am I!
This week’s episode focused on trying a pharmaceutical patent case in a mythical town in West Texas called “Callisto”. Those of us who know and love working on patent cases know that this is actually a town in East Texas called either “Marshall” or “Tyler”. Maybe it is the “other” town – Texarkana – that IS famously both in West Texas and in Arkansas. But the town felt really like one of the first two to me – I’ve been in both.
This episode brings a nugget of truth that I work on all the time in cases – choosing language.
Every case I have ever worked on has a special “lingo” that only people who live in the world of the case understand. Many cases call for me helping witnesses find “translations” of what they say every day in their work life into language the jurors can understand, remember, and hold onto. I find myself in many cases saying, “How would you say that in English?” For example, let’s say we are in a business case and a witness answers the question, “Did you talk with Mr. Smith about what the other side is calling ‘a problem’?” with, “We interfaced with one another and determined the issue was dormant” you know the chances of any human being understanding what the heck this person is talking about are nil. It takes awhile to get folks to translate their own words. For example, eventually the witness will get to “We did talk with one another and figured out that the problem had solved itself.” But it takes time and care.
In a patent case, in general like the one Dr. Bull’s trial consulting team focuses on in this episode is bound to have language that confounds anyone who is not a scientist, engineer or an attorney in this world. The case in this episode deals with patent litigation involving a pharmaceutical drug. So…anyone on the jury who isn’t a research scientist with a drug company or a lawyer who deals with these cases is going to get totally lost really quickly if the witnesses speak their own lingo from the stand. We are treated to such an example by an expert witness who loses and alienates the jurors immediately. Dr. Bull and his team have to make sure that when their own witness, the client, talks to the jurors about the drug and the patent that she uses clear understandable language, tells her story from her heart, and echoes their really great theme: “He wanted to save money, but she wanted to save lives.”
Warning – in this episode there is an OompaLoompa that happens here. Remember – an OompaLoompa has been defined by me as a fantastical way to get the thin candy coating on a round milk chocolate candy versus the factual way they are made by the Hershey folks at the M&M’s factory. Now, you know I would really much rather see the upcoming musical on Broadway of WILLIE WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY starring one of my favorite actors, Christian Borle than visit the M&M’s factory. But I deal in making real live M&M’s – think in this case – helping witnesses choose language to use on the witness stand.
The OompaLoompa is that one of the characters on Dr. Bull’s trial consulting team, former prosecutor Benny Colón played by Freddy Rodríguez does this “all by himself” in a corner somewhere (off camera by the way) and presumably then hands the testimony to the witness who memorizes it. In real life, the language must be the witness’ language, not the language of a trial consultant or an attorney. Making M&M’s takes longer, but there is nothing more rewarding than experiencing a witness translating their “lingo” into language and a story that can be understood literally and emotionally by one and all.
I promised you that in every blog I write about BULL that I would give you a Hollywood Inside Tip. This week it is this…I knew that BULL was being picked up not because of reading about it in the trades…but because a voice. I’m not talking about spiritualism…I’m talking about a pal of ours, Willow Geer whose voice is heard on the show. What does this mean? Ever notice in a film or television show that when there is a crowd of people that you might hear them talking? I’m not talking about individual actors speaking lines, I’m talking about a general sound of people talking? This is a much sought after union job that is filled by trained and talented actors like Willow. She emailed and asked us where she should go for research on juries, focus groups for trials, etc. So I knew that they were making more than the five that were scheduled for sure. Where did we direct her? To our own Knowledge Tank on the ACT of Communication website of course.
So…I wonder if next week’s episode is the last one until January or so. Can’t wait to see what it’s about…and where the nuggets of truth are.