Warner Bros. // 2003 // 4602 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // November 19th, 2010
"Beauty is a curse on the world. It keeps us from seeing who the real monsters are."
For the first eight years of its existence, the FX network was home to kitschy reruns, cheesy chat shows, high profile Fox movies, and NASCAR. But in the ninth year, they discovered the power of original dramatic programming; the next three summers gave the world The Shield, Nip/Tuck, and Rescue Me. It was as if the little channel had just won the creative lottery and invested every cent in must-see TV. Sure, they've stumbled a bit in recent years, but you can't argue with the impact their shows have had on Hollywood storytelling.
Premiering in July 2003, Nip/Tuck was an overnight sensation, drawing nearly four million viewers to start and losing very few over the course of its thirteen episode season. The show gave us creator/head writer/showrunner Ryan Murphy whose unique voice and fresh perspective made everyone stand up and take notice. The risks he took with his characters and long-standing boundaries he shattered remain quite impressive, even in the harsh light of cynical hindsight. The show laid bare our own closely guarded vanity and egos, peeling back a well-maintained facade to reveal the true ugliness of the human soul. Doctors Christian Troy (Julian McMahon, Fantastic Four), Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh, The Stepfather 2009), and Lizzie Cruz (Roma Maffia, Kiss the Girls) were characters whose purpose, talent, and passion in life was to spackle over whatever we didn't like about ourselves, be it medically necessary or not. And we loved every minute of it.
During its protracted and somewhat fragmented six season run, we became deeply invested in Murphy's universe, no matter how far into left field his characters wandered. From Miami to Los Angeles, true love to rampant infidelity, drug addicts to sex-aholics, and life altering moments to brutal acts of inhumanity, Nip/Tuck was a train wreck you couldn't possibly tear yourself away from. However, it wasn't all sunshine and red carpets during its 100 episode run. Oft nominated for industry awards, the series only walked with one Golden Globe (Best Drama, 2005) and one Emmy (Outstanding Makeup, 2004). But regardless of the accolades or lack thereof, this is one series you do not want to pass up...at least until Season Six. That's where things get really weird.
But I digress...
Nip/Tuck is built upon a solid foundation. No matter how strange the storylines may become, these characters operate in a cohesive universe with a unique set of rules. In fact, many McNamara/Troy patients come from real-life medical cases -- the cat lady, conjoined twins, pussy lips -- and to balance this seemingly bizarre work life, you need an equally insane home life. The ongoing uncomfortable love triangle between Christian, Sean, and Julia (Joely Richardson, The Last Mimzy); a son (John Hensley, Witchblade) whose life has seen everything from self-circumcision and torture at the hands of a white supremacist, to crystal meth addiction and a string of armed robberies dressed as a mime; a rampaging serial killer who attacks beautiful people; lecherous/murderous girlfriends, boyfriends, and their children; inappropriate sexual relations with clients; the beautiful idiosyncrasies of Miami to the self-focused self-loathing of Los Angeles; the list goes on, but rarely can you argue that anything is outside the realm of possibility.
Underscoring this wacky world is Ryan Murphy's brilliant use of music. Co-writer and producer Brad Falchuk calls him a "human iPod" and the moniker is quite fitting. From songs that span all genres and eras, to composer James S. Levine's compelling original music; you will smile, laugh, cringe, and cry at how it amplifies what's happening on screen.
That said, there are some problems with the complete series set. First off, all Warner Home Video did was shove all seven previously released sets into a new box; no new a/v specs, packaging, or bonus features. If you already own any or all of these titles, there's no reason to purchase this set. Presented in standard 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, with audio ranging from Dolby 2.0 Stereo in the first three seasons to Dolby 5.1 Surround in the final three, none of what you see or hear will knock your socks off. In terms of extras (which you can find described in great detail in our individual season reviews), you'll find a wealth of deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and gag reels.
What you won't find on any of the sets are episode commentaries, and that's a real shame, since Nip/Tuck proves to be a fertile training ground for storytelling that has since been carried over and perfected on Glee. Ryan, Brad, and their production team wear their accomplishments and missteps on their sleeves. Whether it be writing themselves into a corner with the season-long "Carver" story, or the pitfalls of re-casting a significant supporting role (Katee Sackoff = great; Rose McGowan as her replacement = lousy), they learned from it all. You'll also see a fair number of familiar faces, people who have since gone onto bigger things -- Jessalyn Gillig, Dot-Marie Jones, and Iqbal Theba (Glee), AnnaLynne McCord (90210), Eric Stonestreet and Rico Rodriguez (Modern Family), Adhir Kalyan (Rules of Engagement).
And speaking of familiar faces, where else are you going to find a show with such impressive, yet seamless stunt casting? It's like the 21st Century version of Love Boat and Fantasy Island -- Vanessa Redgrave, Oliver Platt, Linda Hunt, Catherine Deneuve, Jacqueline Bisset, Brooke Shields, Brenda Vacarro, Rosie O'Donnell, Joan Rivers, Larry Hagman, Famke Janssen, Alec Baldwin, Joan Van Ark, Donna Mills, Robert Davi, George Newbern, Melanie Griffith, Mario Lopez, Wayne Knight, Barry Bostwick, Daphne Zuniga, John Schneider, Bradley Cooper, Morgan Fairchild, Sharon Gless, Portia de Rossi, Jennifer Coolidge, Peter Dinklage, Alanis Morissette, Burt Bacharach, Mo'Nique, Kathleen Turner, Tracy Scoggins, Veronica Cartwright, Rhona Mitra, Bruno Campos, Brittany Snow, Anne Heche; the list is seemingly endless, with each committing fully to their respective roles. And that seems to be the gist of Nip/Tuck -- take the excesses of the '80s, the successes of the '90s, and the sobering truth of the early 2000s, paint them over a rich canvas of characters, and cut loose ala Dallas, Dynasty, and Falcon Crest. While it won't always be pretty (be prepared to cover your eyes during some surgeries), you'll never lack for entertainment.
Beauty may only be skin deep, but the turbulent waters of Nip/Tuck run far deeper. Not Guilty.
Review content copyright © 2010 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 4602 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reels
* Music Video