It's easy to look in the mirror and find all the flaws that exist on the outside, and then to blame those flaws on the problems that make our lives miserable. I'm too fat and I'm going bald and that's why I can't find anyone to love me and that's why my life sucks. But all of that is surface crapola that offers easier explanations than seeking out the truth. What's difficult is to look within ourselves, and see what the real problems are.
The FX television series Nip/Tuck is all about people trying to compensate for what is wrong inside, by changing what is outside. Disguised as a nighttime soap opera, Nip/Tuckis more of dark social satire that casts a wicked gaze at an increasingly vapid, emotionally and spiritually bankrupt society. The end result is a brilliant television series that transcends the salacious sexual debauchery that exists on the surface, as it explores the darker realms of the human psyche.
Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon stars as Doctors Sean McNamara and Christian Troy, two Miami-based plastic surgeons seemingly on the top of their game. Sean and Christian have been best friends since college, but after nearly twenty years, the relationship – both personal and professional – is reaching a point of critical mass. As the pilot episode quickly reveals, Christian is the consummate lady's man – a sex-addicted stud prone to picking up models at bars and snorting cocaine of their asses in between rounds of wild sex. Sean, on the other hand, exists at the opposite end of the spectrum. He is in a passionless marriage that finds him huffing and puffing while mechanically humping his wife Julia (Joely Richardson), as she stares off into space bored. Both men secretly want what the other has, especially Christian, who has long carried a torch for Julia, and acts as a surrogate uncle to the McNamara children. Christian is especially close to Matthew (John Hensley) – Sean's teenage son – who Christian has taken under his wing to teach the ways of the world.
The first season of Nip/Tuckis thirteen episodes (five discs), and covers the crucial time as Sean and Julia's marriage is falling apart, and Christian is wrestling with the many demons that have long plagued him. As the season progresses Sean and Julia break up and get back together, and cope with the damage caused when Julia accidentally gets pregnant, and then suffers a miscarriage. Meanwhile Christian is coping with his own drama, which includes a dark secret from his childhood, and string of used and abused women, one of who has a real grudge against the good doctor. And of course there is teenage Matthew, who is just entering the world of sex, but must face his own personal crisis when he and a friend accidentally run over one of their classmates, leaving her in a coma. In between all of this is a diverse array of patients who come in and out of the office, looking to change something about themselves. At times, the patients are more of a distraction, keeping the episodes from getting to the meat and potatoes of the dysfunction the main characters find themselves marred in. Still, each of the patients serve as wonderful cautionary tales about being careful of what you wish for. There is almost a hint of The Twilight Zonein some of the episodes, as many end with some sort of ironic twist. In Episode 2, "Mandi/Randi", identical twins come in for surgery so they can create their own identities, only to have an emotional breakdown when their wish comes true. In another episode a woman undergoes a painful procedure to make herself look better for the internet boyfriend she's finally meeting, only to discover he's not who he claimed to be. The various cases the doctors tackle each episode serve as metaphors within the shows larger themes of identity and perception.
While the supporting characters provide their share of entertainment, what propels the show is the dynamic between the lead characters that spans the entire season. Like the best shows on television, Nip/Tuckpays close attention character development, doing the one thing that film has trouble doing, which is really turning a character into a person with dimension and complexity. And the people on this show are great, mainly because they are so flawed and unlikable. Sean is a moody asshole who tries to be compassionate to others, but is so self-absorbed he can't see how destructive his altruistic tendencies can be. Christian is simply an arrogant prick who only seems to be out for himself. In one episode he trades he conspires to trade his girlfriend for a sports car. In their own ways, Sean and Christian more the villains of Nip/Tuckthan they are the heroes. Both are difficult to like, while at the same time you can't help but care for them, because at the end of the day, we see how flawed they are. We know that despite the terrible things they say and do to others and themselves, all the characters in Nip/Tuck want to be better people – they just don't know how to do it. What makes the show so interesting is to see what sort of things each of the characters will do to alienate everyone around them, and how they will work their way out of the messes they've created. But more than anything, you find yourself hoping they will find some sort of redemption.
Nip/Tuckis another in a long line of television series that have made the move to DVD. The key difference here is that some of the shows you can now spend good money to watch any time you want weren't worth watching when they were on TV for free. Nip/Tuck, however, is not one of those shows. The image quality of the discs is great, and each episode is presented in a matted, widescreen format, which is great, as each episode is crafted much more cinematically than your standard television show. The show's production values are beautiful, with careful attention paid to composition and colors that are crisp, vibrant and pop off the screen.
The sound (Dolby Digital Surround Stereo), like the picture quality of Nip/Tuckis beautiful. Television shows aren't exactly known for their sound mixes, but what is worth noting here is the choice of music incorporated into each episode. Nip/Tuckis one of those shows with a great ear for music, and always seems to match the right song with the right scene.
There is not a wealth of extras to be found on this five-disc collection, but there are a few treats. First there is the collection of deleted scenes that accompany ten of the thirteen episodes. Since there is no explanation as to why these scenes were cut, you're left to your own imagination when it comes to finding a reason. The fifth disc features a blooper reel, and a short documentary, "Giving Drama a Face Lift", that explains the origins of the series, and serves to explore what the underlying themes of the show really are. It is a solid documentary that suffers from being a bit too short. The same can be said for "Are They Real or Fake?: The Miraculous Makeup Effects of Nip/Tuck", a painfully short documentary that gives an up close and personal look at the effects on the show.
A serious word of warning: The surgical sequences on Nip/Tuckcan be brutal, and more gruesome than anything you'll ever see in a horror film. If you are squeamish, the thing to keep in mind is that the surgery scenes are pretty much over once the accompanying song ends – so all you have to do is look away for those few minutes.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]