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DVD Review: Nip/Tuck – The Complete Fourth Season

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FX has created one of the most consistent brands of original programming on television. Their shows are full of morally ambiguous, borderline unlikeable characters and a consistent focus on shock value in the storytelling. Nip/Tuck followed The Shield and crystallized the brand with a really entertaining first couple of seasons. However, because the show is so dependent on shock value, it’s increasingly struggled as time went on, and this fourth season is no exception.

I watched Nip/Tuck’s third season as it aired, with diminishing rewards. The third season finale, which featured a multitude of sadistic tortures, including a forced castration, was one of the most excessively cruel hours of TV I’ve ever seen, and it put me off the show. So, I skipped the fourth season as it aired, and didn’t see it until the DVD was released. The season is a bit stronger than the third, but the formula has pretty much worn itself out, so much crazy stuff has happened that pretty much nothing is shocking. The craziest things just pass by with little impact, and emotionally, the show is a void.

Back in the first season, the show had some decent character development and themes, real emotion mixed in with the portrait of glamorous Miami. However, the characters got stuck in soap opera loops, centered around the central love triangle of Christian/Julia/Sean. After Julia left Sean in the second season, and then reunited with him, there wasn’t anything else to say in this story. This season we’ve got extramarital affairs for both of them, but so much bad stuff has happened, they’re emotionally dead. Much like its network sibling, Rescue Me, the plots got increasingly absurd and defeated the reality of the characters.

A show like Six Feet Under certainly had shock value as part of its initial appeal, but it deepened the characters. This show never did, and like 24, shock became the expected thing, and that means that the only way to shock would be not to shock, which would still be not shocking. It’s a catch-22 and one the series hasn’t figured out.

That’s not to say there aren’t good moments. A friend of mine who started watching this season loved it, probably because it was all new to her. But, as a seasoned viewer, I felt the show didn’t have anything left to say. And, the reboot for next season confirmed that the creators felt the same way. The first season of the show is strong, and worth watching, but by this point, it has exhausted itself.

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