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TV Review: Nip/Tuck

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Could the same person who wrote an article condemning breast augmentation find a television series about two plastic surgeons to be so compelling? To the point where I TiVo it religiously so I can watch some of the most macabre procedures ever performed in surreal life? The show is Nip/Tuck, created by Ryan Murphy, who used to write for the series, Popular. It’s an edgy drama that will grip you and gross you out, but definitely keep your attention. This deeply superficial series is on FX Tuesday nights (soon to be Thursday) at 10 pm. It’s not just boob jobs and rhinoplasty – that’s for amateurs. I’m talking gore and guts, stapling, sawing and bone-grinding surgeries mixed in with equally out-there sex scenes, from a morbidly obese lady being surgically removed from a sofa to a complete facial transplant and even the total resurrection of a beheaded and belimbed corpse. I, who can faint at the sight of a nosebleed, find myself back at that operating table week after week, watching insane procedures, waiting for insane results. It’s like a terrible car accident: you don’t want to look, but you can’t help but look. Watch one episode and you’ll be hooked.

The drama takes place in South Beach Miami and centers around Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) who are partners at a plastic surgery practice. While elective surgery is part of the story, it’s merely a backdrop for the sex, scandals and conflicts that occur within the lives of the doctors, their families and their patients. Sean is married to Julia (Joely Richardson), Julia had a baby with Christian (Matt, who is the supposed son of Sean until season two) and Christian is still in love with Julia. This love triangle would destroy any friendship, but miraculously Sean and Christian always seem to patch it up. That’s TV for you. While the stories and characters are completely over the top, we know it’s not for real – more likely surreal. And while Nip/Tuck can be darkly graphic, it’s darkly humorous as well; poking fun at the profession of plastic surgery by showing the self-loathing “need” of the people who seek it and those who ruthlessly profit from it.

In the first season, we see Sean and Christian as good doctor versus bad doctor. Sean is the questionably happy family man and the brains behind the business. Christian, the bachelor, has got the brawn and charm to lure the ladies in, but basically appears to be riding on his cohort’s coattails. As the season unravels, so will Sean and Julia’s marriage, with a string of infidelities on both parts. Their teenaged son, Matt (John Hensley) will go down his own perilous path of adolescence, leaving viewers to wonder where this may lead him. Will he survive, and why does he appear to have a full face of makeup on in every scene? Christian does some soul searching but ends up down his usual road of debauchery and self-involvement. Quite an ego trip to go on just to come to terms with the demons from his past. He’s definitely a heartbreaker, but he’s the first to admit his faults which makes him somewhat of a sympathetic character. You learn right from the start – the storylines are incredible, but not credible. Both doctors, being masters of perfection with a scalpel, are profoundly flawed and in need of their own emotional makeovers. But, then again, it wouldn’t be a series without that, right?

And now for the follow-up visit…season two contains even more shock value and less levity, as the show takes on a more serious tone. In addition to a few gender-bending procedures (a man getting breast implants, the reconstruction of a woman’s sexual organs), the Queen of Altercation, Joan Rivers, drops in. Just in case you started to take this profession seriously, she’ll set you straight. Sean and Julia split after the cat gets out of the bag about Matt’s real father. Christian tries to come to terms with his newfound fatherhood by sleeping around a little less. Matt begins a doomed affair with his parent’s “life coach,” Ava (Famke Janssen), who ends up being a transgender woman. At this point, I was waiting for Matt to kill himself. The fact that he didn’t was the biggest surprise in the whole series. Well, maybe not the biggest surprise…that would have to be the introduction of the newest character, The Carver – a masked psychopath who slashes his victims’ faces and then proceeds to rape them. He believes beauty is a curse; therefore he is not too happy when Sean and Christian do pro bono work for the victims marred by him. So, what does our serial-slasher do? Let’s just say you’d be hanging on the edge of your liposuctioned seat with this cliff-hanger.

Season three promises even more gore and better sex. Is that possible? The scenarios get stranger and stranger as do the character arcs. Christian, a victim of the Carver, isn’t ready to return to work, so Sean hires Dr. Quentin Costa (Bruno Campos) to fill his shoes. He pretty much runs the gamut from homosexuality to heterosexuality, to coke fiend and I think possibly even the Carver. Matt, looking more like a skinhead, has finally plummeted into an emotionally confused and violent state. He is now knee-deep with the Aryan Nation, dating a white supremacist. Julia has opened a spa and is dating Quentin (obviously with her eyes closed). Sean, feeling deserted by his family, leaves the practice to work for the Federal Witness Protection Program. The job is short-lived, as he falls in love with the first patient to come along. Realizing his screwed up life at home is better than living life on the lam, Sean returns to McNamara/Troy. Christian finds his biological mother, only to realize she wants no part of him. To make matters worse, his fiancée, Kimber (Kelly Carlson) just left him at the altar. Both men have had their fair share of abandonment issues to deal with, but one thing seems certain – they will be there for each other through thick and thin… obscene and extreme. So, that’s where we are so far. Season three is still panning out…

Outrageous? Yes. Addictive? Definitely. And plenty of eye candy, too. The sky’s the limit in both the operating room and the bedroom. But I don’t recommend it for those who are squeamish. Nip/Tuck is a great break from reality if you can handle the graphic shock value. I wonder… what will Ryan Murphy and his ingenious writers think of next? And who is the Carver? I guess we’ll have to wait for the season finale to find out.

Or will we?

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About Joanne Schenker

  • Mag Howard

    I for one would love to see more of Schenker’s writings. Her delivery is outstanding and her writing is great. I am also a fan of Nip/Tuck and agree with the article.

  • joanne

    Hey Mag,

    Thank you! Keep your eye on the site. I’ve only just begun!

  • reggie von woic

    Too much non-stop writing there Joanne, read it anyway.

    I’m totally hooked on the show myself but i had no idea Christian is still in love with Julia.

    Can’t wait for the carver to be revealed 2moro!!!!

    Here are my thoughts on who it could be:
    1. Julia
    2. The lesbian nurse (their assistant)
    3. Matt

    I base this on nothing but speculation.

  • joanne

    Okay, and here’s what I think, Reggie.

    Julian’s father. You know, the one he never met who raped the mother? (far fetched, I know)

    totally based on spec, too.
    Guess we’ll see tomorrow —

  • reggie von woic

    How wrong we were, Joanne.

    It turns out that [you-know-who] is the carver. At first it looked too easy for us to think it was [you-know-who], so we all eliminated this person from our list.

    I found the reasons behind the culprits carving to be very distubing, especially with [you-know-who-else] being an accomplice.

    BTW, i’m a bit confused about Julia and her baby…

  • joanne

    Well, it’s definitely a good twist, right? Yes, it seemed to obvious that it would be Y-K-W, but at least the accomplice was an added interest. Didn’t you figure the accomplice out after a short way into it? (that last episode, that is)

    Anyway, what is confusing to you about Julia and the baby? Do you think it’s not Sean’s?

  • reggie von woic

    No, i’m sure the baby is Sean’s, the thing it that i’m not sure its alive….i don’t remember why i think this.