Feel My Rhythm, Bull on CBS, Wu and the North End
Red Velvet has already come back, so soon after the ReVe Festival 2022, kind of compounding my anxiety that the lead single “Feel My Rhythm” will be forgotten — or, if not forgotten, uncalculated in the Best of Red Velvet calculations to come. I say this because — and this is personal heresy — it might be my favorite Red Velvet song?
I got into Red Velvet in 2019, and so their first new material to me was Day 2, and “Umpah Umpah,” which I love. “Psycho” was so good, though, and based on its critical reception, I mentalized that that was the ceiling. I’d be damn lucky if anything else in late-era Velvet was that good. I’d be lucky if Red Velvet even had a late era. They were supposed to disband in 2020, remember? Five years. Remember? I haven’t forgotten. For me, “Red Flavor” was the unimpeachable masterpiece, a work so brilliant and cohesive that it was even a satisfying pick for number one. And it’s about fruit!
It’s hard, you know, living. But these past two weeks, honestly, it’s been okay. I’ve thought every day, “At least I get to wake up in a world where ‘Feel My Rhythm’ exists,” and I can listen to it or watch the music video, not to mention the steady stream of supplemental material (the recording session is unmissable). I wasn’t gonna buy a physical copy of this album, because I’m trying to save money and I’ve never had an impulse for collectibles, but once they announced it was their most preordered album ever, I said “Do I still have time?”
It’s just, like, the perfect sound. I don’t know that it’s as cohesive as “Red Flavor,” but it’s just as quintessential. “Red Flavor” is the introduction, and “Feel My Rhythm” is a climax of the group’s philosophy. I can’t stop thinking about it. And funnily enough, it will give Twenty-Five Twenty-One a run for its money at the QNA Year End Review. I really did not see it coming.
Did you happen to see last night’s episode of Bull on CBS? On the off-chance you didn’t catch it, I’ll give you a plot summary:
The surgeon who saved Bull’s life after his heart attack is sued for malpractice; Taylor fights the urge to check into the background of Henri Fray, Marissa’s new love interest.
Bull is a courtroom drama based on the early career of Dr. Phil, here played by handsome creep Michael Weatherly, who’s gone on from a looser performance in NCIS to a kind of constipated Don Draper as Dr. Jason Bull. Apparently, Dr. Phil used to be a “trial scientist,” who’d optimize the selection of jurists in a court case based on their psychological profiles. If you’ve ever seen Runaway Jury, it’s what all that shady, conspiracy stuff was — now in CBS primetime. The Rotten Tomatoes blurb puts it well: “Michael Weatherly’s performance is top-notch, but not enough to save a show that relies too heavily on a well-worn series of legal show tropes and an off-putting premise.”
It is weird, right? And a little intriguing, honestly. I like when people in a room sit down to talk strategy, solve problems. Bull will be ending with its sixth season, which may tell you it’s got over 100 episodes. That’s a lot of writing, like about 4,400 pages of final draft alone.
This latest episode is only the latest in a pattern. The key witness for the prosecution is a nurse who was in the operating room with the Bull-saving surgeon accused of medical malpractice. The nurse says “I saw a tremor in the surgeon’s hand.” Other witnesses deny it, but why would she lie? Well, probably because the surgeon dressed her down not long ago for overmedicating a patient. But! Turns out the surgeon does have a hand tremor? Maybe? Will Dr. Bull believe her when she says she’s fit to still cut? Or is he too emotionally involved, indebted to the woman who saved his life? And chiefly, how will the team “claw the jury back” from this major setback of the nurse’s surprise testimony?
Yeah, none of that matters. See, the only remotely cool character on the show is Danny, the investigator, and she investigates and finds that the nurse is outright lying. Damn! And she’s lying because she’s a fucking serial killer. Damn! So once “Chunk” Palmer recalls the witness to the stand and exposes her as an angel of mercy killer, the prosecution drops the case and recommends the NYPD look into the nurse. What the hell?
This is how you pivot around “an off-putting premise,” how you write thousands of pages. My issue isn’t with this episode or even with Bull alone, but with every TV show that takes something interesting and turns into a police procedural. That’s the big strategy: solve the crime. Learn the truth. Not “win the case, even if it’s ethically ambiguous” like a grown-up show might. That’s why I can never buy that sentiment that goes viral every now and then like “Remember when shows used to be 22 episodes per season and now everything’s a limited series?” You just can’t write 22 episodes. The model is unsustainable, or rather, it forces unnatural storytelling decisions. The way that TV cops solve thousands, maybe millions of murders every year, how crimes have to be invented to keep up with these ungodly episode orders. Ryan Murphy’s 911 is the most honest procedural ever made.
In the case of Bull, solving the case obviates any interrogation of the genre’s basic ethical dilemma, that a jury’s verdict is not the Mirror of Truth. Sometimes they get it wrong, but not Team Bull!
Finally, a story not out of Asia or my personal hell on TV, but the city of Boston, which I’ve been observing ever since the election of its first Asian-American mayor Michelle Wu. This will not be remembered as one of the significant events in her administration, and that’s exactly why I’m talking about it now. For some background, here’s WBUR:
“The outdoor dining program in Boston’s North End will get off to a late start — and require restaurants to unexpectedly pony up. The city planned to begin allowing restaurants in the neighborhood, renowned for its Italian eateries and historic character, to have outdoor seating on April 8. But the city has delayed that until May 1. And Thursday night, the city announced North End restaurants will have to pay a $7,500 fee for the ability to host patrons outdoors.”
In response, several restaurant owners threatened to sue the city. From The Boston Globe:
Carla Agrippino Gomes, owner and general manager of Terramia and Antico Forno, added she did not believe asking North End restaurants to pay an additional fee is right. “All we are looking for is equity and fairness across all neighborhoods in the city of Boston,” she said. “We want to be treated fairly. We want to be treated the same.”
That sounds about right, until it’s put into context, via an interview with Wu:
“The North End is unique and I know that some of the tension here is that certain restaurant owners believe that it’s not fair that … even if this is affordable to them, that restaurant owners in other parts of the city aren’t being charged, and so they feel that they’re being targeted, or that the scale of fees to participate in a shortened time frame isn’t what they believe that the city should be providing in terms of having an equal treatment across every neighborhood.”
Emphasis mine. “Why doesn’t the first Asian woman mayor of Boston take me seriously when I say I’m being unfairly targeted?” But more importantly, we’re living in a pandemic on the eve of the third World War, and some people can’t hold the line enough to not disrupt a mayor’s daily schedule? Because other people aren’t being fined? Shirley Leung puts it like this: “It’s not often you see a group of business owners challenge the mayor publicly. I can’t imagine this happening to Marty Walsh. Wu is our first woman, first person of color, and first millennial elected as mayor. She’s being tested by the old guard.”
That old guard also includes the unions pushing back on vaccine mandates, who have been testing her administration for weaknesses, to measure how much they can get versus give. It’s sickening, especially since the anti-vaxx protests outside her home have moved her to introduce an ordinance to ban protest “outside a particular residence” between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. I hate that she has to compromise with these seeming bad-faith actors, but of course, I don’t understand the inner workings of city hall. Maybe minor stuff like this doesn’t distract from her hands-on with the homelessness part of her policy profile, for example. I know she’s prepared for this, and I believe in her, but still — get it together, people.