I was initially sceptical about Nip/Tuck, which follows the fortunes of Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) who are plastic surgeons in Miami. The first episode converted me to its merits. Not only are there three-dimensional, flawed characters in the series, but they develop and change as the series advances.
Sean is the family man, with two kids, and a wife, Julia (Joely Richardson), who yearns to return to Medical school - her goal before she had children. Sean and Julia's marriage has become stagnant, and one of the main storylines in the series is an examination of what motivates people to stay in a long-term relationship when the passion and love has evaporated. Christian is the smooth-talking, amoral, heartbreaker, who starts off being a man who is motivated only by how many hot women he can bed, his boat (called the Boatox), fast cars and money. As is pointed out in the show, Sean is the talent, and Christian is the salesman.
There is a great deal being said in this show about consumerist culture and the insecurities that drive people to the scalpels of plastic surgeons. Each episode features at least one client who wants plastic surgery, with an analysis of how the treatment impacts upon his or her life. In between the glamour, and the successes, we see the heartbreak and the trauma of people who attempt to fix their internal problems via an external change. During each episode we witness part of the surgery in toe-curling graphic detail. The reality of what plastic surgery involves - the carved flesh, broken cartilage, and transferred muscle - is a shocking antidote to the dreams and aspirations of some of the superficial people who traipse into the offices of McNamara and Troy.
What surprised me when I watched Nip/Tuck was the believable characterisation, and the excellence of the writing. Upon investigation I discovered that the show was conceived, and co-written, by Ryan Murphy, who was responsible for the excellent dark teen comedy, Popular - a highly underrated series. Looking at the episodes with an eye for plotting, and storytelling, Nip/Tuck consistently manages to twist the story into unexpected directions. Such as how the audience is tipped off that Sean's son, Matt (John Hensley), is about to walk into his girlfriend's room and see her making out with someone. The twist is neatly delivered: his girlfriend is making out with another girl.