Mid-Season Premiere of ‘Nip/Tuck’ Hints at Series Face-Lift
CHICAGO – After recently lamenting the decline of “Nip/Tuck” in my review of the Season Five, Part One DVD, no one is more shocked than I am at the creative success of the mid-season premiere, airing January 6th, 2009 at 9pm CST on FX.
Perhaps the creative spark on display can be credited to the return of creator Ryan Murphy, who clearly knows these characters better than anyone in the history of the show, with his first writing credit since the season premiere. Or perhaps the entire team listened to the criticism that the show has completely misplayed the balance of tawdry and serious over most of the last three seasons with a few exception here and there. “Nip/Tuck” had become as ridiculous as “The Bold and the Beautiful” and just about as important to the creative landscape of television.
Julian McMahon and Roma Maffia star in the mid-season premiere of Nip/Tuck on FX on January 6th, 2009.
Photo credit: Michael Becker/FX
But there was always something there underneath the soapy surface. The concept of two men - Drs. Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) - who made millions fixing the imperfections of others but could not handle their own declining bodies or troubled personal lives was a brilliant set-up for intriguing drama and the cast is still more talented than most on television. Walsh can be a little too wishy-washy but McMahon did great work those first two years and Joely Richardson was simply fantastic.
So, why did “Nip/Tuck” become a cross between “The Young and the Restless” and “The Love Boat”? A revolving door of guest appearances, each one weirder than the one before it (Larry Hagman? Rosie O’Donnell?), and increasingly ridiculous storylines sunk “Nip/Tuck,” making it repetitive, disingenuous, and disposable. The show became as surface level as the clients of McNamara/Troy.
Photo credit: Michael Becker/FX
How refreshing then that the mid-season premiere of “Nip/Tuck” brings the focus back to where it should have been for the last two and half years - the characters of Sean McNamara and Christian Troy.
At the end of the mid-season finale, Sean was stabbed in the back by his agent/stalker Colleen (Sharon Gless) and left to bleed out on his own surgery room floor while his daughter lay on the operating table. It turns out that the attack left Sean paralyzed. The idea of a doctor tasked with trying to make people perfect who is himself stuck in a wheelchair is dramatically rich with possibilities.
After an over-long prologue that details what happened just before and after the stabbing, “Nip/Tuck” picks up four months after the crucial event. Sean is still hesitant to get back into the operating room, finding more comfort in a plastic surgery class that he’s been teaching.
Meanwhile, Christian runs into a deadly problem of his own, one that will completely redefine his character and force the superficial doctor to reassess what is truly important in his life. As an actor, McMahon has been forced to take a back seat to the ridiculous aspects of the show in the last few years. His new arc offers him the potential to do his best acting work since at least season two.
Don’t be mistaken. The mid-season premiere of “Nip/Tuck” isn’t all doom and gloom. Just as the episode feels like it may be getting too serious, Murphy throws in a sex scene that rivals any in the history of the show in terms of intensity and raunchiness. It’s an over-the-top scene (two words - wheelchair sex) but what’s great is that it works in the context of the serious themes of the show. For a few years now, it’s been the other way around with the ridiculous plotlines deflating the attempts at drama.
If Murphy can teach the rest of his writing staff how to just use the soapy elements as flavor or spice on top of the serious themes and believable characters, “Nip/Tuck” could accomplish something almost unheard of in television - it might look young again.