Warner Bros. // 2008 // 627 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // December 23rd, 2008
The deeply superficial series returns.
Unexpected pregnancis. Special guest stars. Very special guest stars. Very special episodes. Very special guest stars appearing in very special episodes. Very special guest stars in very special episodes about transsexual sirens, horny older women, porn shoots, and penis-lacking killers.
Nip/Tuck stays alive with a combination of sleaze, charm, and "jump-the-shark" momentum.
For its first four seasons, the show took place in Miami, but for Nip/Tuck: Season 5, Part 1, the McNamara/Troy practice loads up the truck and moves to Beverly...Hills, that is. Will it be swimmin' pools and movie stars, or is there just too much bubbling crude going on here?
Having survived a serial slasher, a murderous drug lord, an organ harvester, a couple million sexual encounters, and Rosie O'Donnell, among other modern-day horrors, miracle-working plastic surgeons Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) pack up their scalpels and sex toys, pull up stakes in Miami, and head for Los Angeles. In no time at all, they discover that L.A. is glutted with sluts and cutters, and their superior skills and generous libidos make them just faces in the crowd.
They wind up being consultants on "Hearts and Scalpels," a Nip/Tuck-like medical show, and soon enough, they are carving out their own little niche in Hollywood, complete with multiple sex partners, strangers with secrets, and a bedpan's worth of intrigues and deceptions.
To ensure they don't get homesick, virtually everyone they knew in Miami joins them, including Sean's ex-wife and Christian's great love, Julia (Joely Richardson, Wetherby); shared son Matt (John Hensley, Teeth) and his wife, once and future porn star Kimber (Kelly Carlson, Made of Honor); and Dr. Liz Cruz (Roma Maffia, Holes).
What Dallas was for suburban housewives, what Dynasty was for gay men, what Beverly Hills 90210 was for teen-age girls and Melrose Place was for their pansexual older siblings, Nip/Tuck is for straight men over 35. The show takes all the conventions of a soap opera and grafts them onto a post-fratboy fantasy. It has all the elements of a soap -- sex and consequences, domestic strife, colorful characters, nefarious plots -- only without any perspective from women. Even its main female player is ultimately a cipher.
Nip/Tuck found itself in a sticky situation in Season Four, when Joely Richardson abruptly quit the show to go back to the UK and deal with a personal problem. Richardson was written out by having Julia leave Sean for good, take the kids, and move away. For closure, an episode was concocted that showed all the characters 20 years in the future ("Conor McNamara 2026"). Julia's leaving became a major catalyst for Sean deciding to leave Miami and move to L.A.
As it turned out, Richardson's problems were shorter lived than she'd anticipated, and she was back onboard for Season Five. Actually, everyone was back onboard for Season Five -- the last time a show changed location and kept the cast intact was when Laverne and Shirley moved to L.A. and apparently took half of Milwaukee with them.
Julia returns as a lesbian. Well, not a real lesbian: Even though she shows up with a beautiful blonde lover (Portia de Rossi) in tow, as well as her own children and her lover's stupefyingly gorgeous teenage devil child, Eden (AnnaLynne McCord), Julia is still easily persuaded into the sack by aging man-whore Christian.
In an interesting twist, Christian and Sean kind of trade places this season. Christian becomes something of a joke in L.A., and suddenly his lowered-keyed partner is getting a lot of attention. Sean becomes a TV star, dates a beautiful actress, goes all Humbert Humbert over the teenage devil child, and even gets his own stalker. Christian, on the other hand, becomes a gigolo (for real), tries to score with a bunch of wealthy "Real Housewife" types, and grows progressively more bitter at his partner's success.
Julian McMahon turns in some fine work this season, bringing out Christian's ugly, petty side without turning him into a caricature. Dylan Walsh is solid as Sean. Richardson's Julia, unfortunately, continues on a path that's been set the past couple of seasons. She's a whiney and persnickety, and her pretentious moral superiority makes her a first-class bore. Sean and Christian's rivalry over her rings more of "for old time's sake" than anything genuine or passionate, and her affair with Christian is one of this season's less interesting plot developments. Frankly, I'd have preferred seeing McMahon paired off with de Rossi's character.
While the change of venue pumps a bit of new blood into old Nip/Tuck, the contrivances to get the rest of the characters out west became draining. Even Rosie O'Donnell's irritating Dawn Budge character somehow tracked down her favorite plastic surgeons across the country. The "Hearts and Scalpels" experience was fun, however, and there are some very good guest star turns, particularly Sharon Gless as Sean's deranged agent, Oliver Platt as a foppish TV producer, Bradley Cooper as an arrogant actor, and John Schneider as a porno king.
As with previous seasons, the plot becomes increasingly ludicrous, but this season is actually less ridiculous than Season Three's Carver story or Season Four's human-organ-harvesting ring romp. This time, we get blackmail, bulimia, drug addiction, group sex, death by teddy bear, incest, anal sex, surprise paternity, poisonous fruitcake, a carjacking, a shooting, a stabbing, amnesia, terrorism, all manner of couplings, and the usual odd surgical requests and back stories.
This set contains all 14 episodes from Season Five, Part One. I didn't realize there was a Part Two, but evidently there are eight additional episodes waiting to be aired in January 2009. While I realize that the days of September-to-January and January-to-June TV seasons are long gone, I really don't understand this business of airing a handful of episodes almost a year later and calling it "Part Two" of a season. Why not wait until you've got another dozen or so episodes in the can and call the whole thing Season Six? Ah, well, the extra couple of bucks Warner Bros. will get from the additional home video release are worth it. I guess.
The shows look and sound great, better than I remember them looking and sounding when they were broadcast. We don't get much in the way of extras: a 10-minute intro to the season, a few deleted scenes, one of which -- the one on Disc Three -- probably should have remained, and a typically painful gag reel. We also get liner notes with descriptions of each episode, helpful since there are no on-screen descriptions.
No one takes Nip/Tuck seriously anymore, but so what? The show's over-the-top silliness and envelope-pushing sleaze are the reasons people tune in and the very elements that make it so entertaining. Here and there it becomes aggravating: a character who is seriously burned in a fire recovers miraculously and has no visible scarring just weeks after; a woman who's not sickly thin is referred to as "fats" and "two-ton;" discussions of HIV infection sound more like Pat Robertson circa 1988 than sophisticated professionals in the 21st century; and the characters' self-serving ignorance sometimes goes off the charts.
What Nip/Tuck has given up along the way is even a pretense that we should really care about these people. They're entertaining to watch, but they are so clueless and self-absorbed that it's become impossible to identify or empathize with them. The show will likely never again achieve the nakedly emotionally manipulative heights of its first two seasons, which culminated in the Season Two finale, which featured revelations, reconciliations, killings, closures, Joan Rivers, and a family meal, all played out against a soaring rendition of Art Garfunkel's "All I Know."
Silly, sexy, and gross, Nip/Tuck: Season 5, Part 1 delivers enough sordid goodies to keep fans hankering for Part 2.
Guilty as a bag of chips and a Jack-'n'-beer-back.
Review content copyright © 2008 Tom Becker; 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)
Running Time: 627 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Hollywood Hedonism: The Transition from Miami to Hollywood"
* Unaired Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Official Site
* Season 2 Closing