August 19, 2004


I just finished watching the first season of Nip/Tuck on DVD. It’s pretty compelling television.

FX has crafted a series about plastic surgery, depravity, love, and the loss of love. At its core there are values, but there is a vein of rot that weaves through it. The focus of the show is a practice of two early doctors in their early 40’s. They apply their skills as plastic surgeons for their south Florida clientele. One doctor has the life every man thinks he dreams of, but it is an empty, tormented shell of a life. The other man has the family that many dream of, but his marriage is falling apart. His wife has unresolved issues with the other partner in the practice and it’s all a big, unbelievable mess.

Watching an episode of this is almost like watching the X-Files. Each episode is named after a patient, and the surgeries are the centerpieces of the stories. I mention X-Files because, while these are based on real surgeries, the stories are often odd. A man who wants his breasts removed, a woman with “tankles” (tank ankles) people with psychological issues, and insecure model-wannabes parade through the office in a way that makes you think there is some sort of epidemic sweeping the nation and the only solution is plastic surgery.

The procedures themselves are often so graphic that the editing team on the series had trouble stomaching the footage while they were working on it. The effects artists are that good.

But while the blood may turn your stomach, it’s the characters and the situation that are likely to give you knots and make you uncomfortable as they stumble into trouble and just make a complete mess of their lives. Every character on the show has a vulnerable side in the writer’s attempts to confuse you as much as possible. It’s clear they don’t want bad guys and good guys in the series, just messy, ugly relationships that hold the promise of blooming into some kind of beauty but either miss the mark slightly or fail miserably. Mostly, they fail miserably.

On the inside, these people’s lives are damaged, unhappy, and even tortured. They hold up a decent outward appearance of contentedness and even go to lengths to improve that appearance. An outward appearance is deceiving, and preoccupation with it can be an indication that so much has fallen away on the inside that it doesn’t sustain itself. This is true for relationships and the physical bodies that house our personalities.

There isn’t really a moral here. The show doesn’t need to try to make a metaphor between plastic surgery and the lives of the doctors. But the patients are just another aspect of the Nip/Tuck universe where people go to extreme lengths for what they think will make them happy. Sometimes it works. Sometimes they’re way off because change does not happen from the outside-in.

To come back from the philosophical, Nip/Tuck can be outrageous, but it packs a dramatic punch that is addictive. I count it among my current guilty television pleasures.

Posted by James at August 19, 2004 3:10 AM
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That's interesting, cuz back when we had cable I would watch a lot of M*A*S*H and Sanford and Son on FX, and they played ads for that show during every singly commercial break. And lemme tell you, the ads looked horrible. It just looked like a really shallow show about some smug asshole that played with boobies all day.

But I guess it was a lot more interesting than that.

Posted by: David Grenier at August 19, 2004 10:47 AM

That's funny. I thought it looked like Melrose Place with gore. I have a feeling I'd like it, but as long as it remains easy to avoid, I'll avoid it. I have way too many guilty pleasures as it is, and have already cleared a spot in my schedule for Desperate Housewives this Fall. :)

Posted by: Julie at August 19, 2004 11:01 AM

"But I guess it was a lot more interesting than that."

Either that, or I'm just good at rationalizing my TV-watching.

Julie, I haven't heard of this new show. But since I often don't see these shows until they hit DVD (no commercials) I'll check back with you in 2 years or so. :)

Posted by: James at August 19, 2004 3:06 PM

I don't know if Desperate Housewives is going to be DVD material. It's going to be a nighttime soap, not a comedy, but a little on the silly side like Melrose Place was, and with a good pedigree (for that type of show). Also, I don't remember if you were the person who likes Teri Hatcher or not, but she's in it.

Posted by: Julie at August 19, 2004 4:38 PM

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