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DVD Review: Nip/Tuck – The Complete Series

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An early champion of basic cable programming, Nip/Tuck consistently pushed the TV envelope for six seasons on FX, drawing in viewers with salacious storylines, familial drama and lots and lots of sex.

Early on, it appeared as if the show had potential to be a darkly comic satire of the plastic surgery industry and the culture of physical perfectionism that surrounds it, but it became clear pretty quickly that wasn’t Nip/Tuck’s strong suit. Rather, the show transformed (or descended, depending on your perspective) into a fever-pitched soap opera, with tensions always pushed to the max and characters always capable of sinking into more depraved behavior.

The approach made for a show that is compellingly watchable despite the often utterly ridiculous plotlines that ensure nearly every major character wrongs and/or sleeps with every other major character. But even though the show threatens to go off the rails often (and certainly does sometimes), the strength of the performances and series creator Ryan Murphy’s committed vision (something he’s been much less successful at finding with his latest series, Glee) make for a primetime soap to take seriously.

Dylan Walsh stars as Sean McNamara and Julian McMahon stars as Christian Troy, partners who own the Miami (and later in the series, Holywood) plastic surgery firm of McNamara/Troy. The two are old friends, but (at least initially) couldn’t be more different, with Sean being a committed family man with a wife, Julia (Joely Richardson), and two kids, Matt (John Hensley) and Annie (Kelsey Batelaan), while Christian is an unrepentant lothario, bedding scores of women (often his patients) on a regular basis.

The two begin every patient consultation by saying, “Tell me what you don’t like about yourself,” and the cases featured on the show almost never fall into the routine facelift or tummy tuck category — try breast implants for a man who wants to understand female sexuality better for a book he’s writing or a woman who wants her husband’s ashes used in her breast implants. Most episodes fixate on the particularly gruesome details of any given surgery, but the show still doesn’t aim to be a medical drama.

Rather, Nip/Tuck thrives on things going wrong, and although McNamara/Troy features incredibly talented plastic surgeons, the personal lives of both characters are a constant shambles, with any temporary joy replaced by nearly instant anguish — most of which the two bring on themselves with a never-ending parade of stupid choices. And yet, both leads make the characters compelling enough to care — Walsh with a high-strung neediness that belies his steady surgical hand and McMahon with a seemingly effortless veneer hiding a world of insecurities.

The supporting cast embraces the high drama with equal aplomb, with Richardson turning what could’ve been a passive character into a fascinatingly self-destructive force and Hensley emerging as much more than just a face in a typical teenager throwaway role. The constant parade of recurring and guest stars like Vanessa Redgrave, Famke Janssen, Jacqueline Bisset, Peter Dinklage, Rosie O’Donnell, Portia de Rossi, Sharon Gless and many others is also rather impressive.

Nip/Tuck has an addictive quality, even though it feels like the show was trying too hard to be controversial or edgy occasionally. Though it all can seem patently ridiculous, the show is committed enough to its heightened qualities to make all six seasons gripping drama.

The complete series box set simply compiles all seven DVD sets previously available (season five was split into two volumes, because its halves were separated by almost a year because of the writer’s strike in 2008) and puts them in a big, shiny silver box. The individual boxes that contain each season are identical to those that were available separately, as are the contents, with all special features, including deleted scenes and production featurettes, included.

For fans that have already purchased each individual season, there’s nothing to double-dip for here, unless that silver box is worth 140 bucks to you. For those who have yet to purchase any of the series, the box set is slightly more expensive than picking up used copies of each season individually, but for the sake of convenience, the box is a good route to take.

It’s unfortunate that a Blu-ray release of the complete series couldn’t have accompanied this DVD one to offer extra value, but with only season four getting a high def release previously, it seems as if Blu-ray plans for the series have been officially scrapped.

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.