Tuesday, January 5, 2010
"Nip/Tuck" starts final season
When FX's glossy drama "Nip/Tuck" debuted in 2003, it cemented the cable network's identity as the new home for daring, envelope-pushing TV. Where "The Shield" was the network's take on a broadcast staple -- the cop show -- "Nip/Tuck" was the FX version of a medical soap opera. Its depiction of plastic surgery had all the graphic bloodiness of "ER" but with an element that series lacked -- style. The surgery scenes were edited almost like music videos, complete with songs that reflected the surgery taking place (for instance, in a first season episode, "Tighten Up" by Archie Bell and the Drells played during a surgery to firm up loose skin on a patient who had just lost a significant amount of weight).
Not only did the show have style, it had sex. Not relatively chaste, George-Clooney-making-bedroom-eyes-at-Julianna-Marguiles sex. Sex sex. Sex in a variety of positions. Mean, nasty, shocking sex. In the first season alone, surgeon Christian Troy (Julian McMahon)seemingly got busy with half of Miami, while lusting after the other half.
While I didn't love "Nip/Tuck" the way I loved "The Shield" (or, later, FX's "Rescue Me"), I did admire how aggressive and stylish it was. I also admired the central performances by McMahon and Dylan Walsh, who played Christian's talented but uptight partner Sean McNamara. They had a nice rapport, and I actually believed they'd been friends and rivals for a long time. And, even though it wasn't as smart or as classy as "The Shield," "Nip/Tuck" was never boring.
Now, six years later, the show is coming to a close. Its seventh and final season starts Wednesday at 10 p.m. Over the years, the show has deteriorated quite a bit. Where the show's plot twists were once shocking, they've become silly or even off-putting. I mean, how many horrible things can happen to Sean's son Matt? He's already attempted a self-circumcision, had a threesome with lesbians, found out that Christian is his biological dad, slept with his mom's transsexual life coach, and dated a neo-Nazi. And that was just in the first three seasons! Did we really need last season's storyline, which started with Matt robbing convenience stores while dressed as a mime and ended with him getting sexually assaulted in prison? And I won't even talk about Sean's ex-wife Julia (Joely Richardson), who has been through so many dramatic character changes, she seems less of a character and more of a rack on which to hang a series of behavioral problems.
But, even though the show has veered into self-parody, I've kept watching. Mainly because my husband likes it, but also because it's just crazy enough to stay entertaining. Also, the acting remains strong and the surgery scenes still have an addictive mix of queasy realism and glitz.
So, as the show plods to a close, I'm trying to stay optimistic. The first two episodes of the new season are actually pretty good (the first is written by show creator Ryan Murphy, and has much of the melodramatic zing of the first season), so maybe this thing will come to a strong close. But, no matter what happens, I'll still kind of miss "Nip/Tuck" when it's gone.
Because, no matter what else it's become, it's never been boring.