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"Nip/Tuck" Review

By Shawn McKenzie 08/04/2003

My mom owns a card shop, but if you asked her where she makes most of her money, she would say it’s the gifts and knick-knacks she also sells.  Why am I telling you this?  It’s because the new FX show “Nip/Tuck” is kind of like my mom’s card shop.  The cards bring the customers in, but the gifts (and my mom’s charming personality) keep them coming back.  For this show, the violence and sex will bring the viewers, but the compelling stories will keep them coming back.


Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) and Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) have been friends and business partners for years.  Together they run a plastic surgery practice in Miami.  Christian is a guy who has little-to-no scruples.  He’ll do almost anything for money, including putting down a hot woman’s feelings to generate her business (after sleeping with her, of course.)  Sean is a family man who does care about other people’s feelings, except, ironically, his family’s feelings.  He is concerned about some patients who might be requesting unnecessary surgery and others that just can’t afford it.  He has been married to Julia (Joely Richardson) for about as long as he has known Christian (Christian dated Julia before she and Sean got together.)  They have two kids, Matt (John Hensley) and Annie (Kelsey Lynn Batelaan.)  Julia and Matt both have a strained relationship with Sean.  Julia thinks Sean cares more about his work than about her or his family.  She had planned to go to medical school after Sean started his practice, but after having two kids, she ended up just being a homemaker.  Matt thinks Sean never listens to him or cares about his feelings, with the latest issue being that Sean refuses to circumcise him (he was born six weeks premature and they thought it might be too stressful on him, and now Sean considers it a “vanity” surgery.)  Matt is embarrassed by it, because he was teased in the locker room and he doesn’t want his girlfriend, Vanessa (Kate Mara), to see it, because he plans to have sex with her soon.  Christian and Sean’s friendship is becoming strained as well.  Sean doesn’t like Christian’s “anything for money” attitude towards the business.  Christian, a good-looking guy who could have any woman he wanted, still pines for Julia.


In the first episode, Sean is consulting a man who wants to change his face completely.  Silvio Perez (Geoffrey Rivas) wants the surgery, and he has brought his brother Alejandro (Raymond Cruz) to translate for him.  Unfortunately, Sean can’t speak Spanish (despite living in Miami), and he asks Christian, who does speak Spanish, to come in for a more direct consultation, so he can be sure Silvio doesn’t have a body dismorphic disorder (a body image problem.)  Christian finds out that Silvio had been fooling around with the daughter of their boss, Escobar Gallanto (Robert LaSardo), and needs to get away.  He offers them $300,000 to do the procedure (their usual fee is $20,000), and Christian quickly accepts it.  He doesn’t care that it is drug money.  Later on, Escobar comes looking for the Perez brothers so he can kill Silvio for what he did to his daughter.  Christian discovers that Escobar’s daughter is only six-years-old.  In a very graphic scene, Alejandro kills Silvio (since he has a daughter as well) and leaves with Escobar.  The partners are left with the dead body of Silvio to get rid of.  Christian also has a face and crotch-full of botox injections, thanks to being tortured by Escobar over the location of the Perez brothers.  Sean and Christian buy some hams at the supermarket, tie them to Silvio’s body, and feed him to the Florida gators.  Sean had been considering leaving the partnership, and he tells Christian that he will stay only if they hire a staff psychologist to screen clients and that 20% of their clients must be pro bono.  Meanwhile, Julia has been very frustrated lately.  She is constantly fighting with Sean, and still has a lingering attraction to Christian (she allows him to examine her breasts at one point under the guise of a boob job consultation.)  One morning, she is so stressed that she flushes Annie’s gerbil Frisky down the toilet when it freaks her out.


In the second episode, the new staff psychologist, Dr. Pendleton (Kevin Chamberlin), is getting an orientation of the facility.  He passes out when he witnesses Sean repairing a woman’s breast implant pro bono after her abusive boyfriend had ruptured it.  They do a consult with a man named Mr. Joel Brancato (Timothy Elwell) who wants to widen his penis.  Sean doesn’t think they should do it, but Dr. Pendleton thinks it will give him confidence (hes already had five procedures previously.)  Christian asks Dr. Pendleton for advice about his obsession with Julia, and he recommends making a decision about what he is going to do with her so he can once again have a normal erection.  After Christian and Sean do the surgery on Mr. Brancato, Sean fires Dr. Pendleton because he thinks the man doesn’t seem to have any better scruples than Christian.  Meanwhile, Christian and Sean do a consult with twin sisters Mandi (Caitlin Dahl) and Randi (Melinda Dahl) Dante, who are there because they want to look differently from each other.  Sean suggests that they speak with Dr. Pendleton (he hadn’t yet been fired at this point), but Christian tells Sean that they already have a letter from another psychologist named Grace Santiago (Valerie Cruz) that says she recommends the surgery.  Sean later meets with Grace over lunch to find out why she made the recommendation.  She says that ever since they both lost their virginity to the same older man, they have been struggling to find their own identity.  Sean and Christian agree to operate on the twins.  After the surgery, the twins decide that they want to go back to the way they were because a male nurse didn’t pay attention to Mandi, making her think that she was now uglier than Randi.  In other parts of the clinic, Sean offers her to double the salary of her lesbian anesthesiologist Liz Winters (Roma Maffia) and give benefits to her partner Jan if she will stay (she was is the room when Silvio was killed in the first episode and had Escobar’s gun in her face, so she wasn’t too hip on staying.)  Liz agrees, but says the benefits weren’t necessary, since she broke up with Jan.  This turns some wheels in Sean’s head, and he decides to leave Julia for a little while.  Julia is trying to start a gift basket business with her friend Suzanne (Noa Tishby), and she thinks Sean’s decision to leave for a little while is really abandoning his family.  Julia doesn’t really have the heart for the gift baskets, and she disgusts Suzanne after a plumber (Sal Landi) discovers that Frisky is the one clogging up the toilet.  Julia tells Christian that Sean has moved out, and Christian invites Julia to his place later that night.  They both think that they might be finally living out their unresolved feelings for each other.  Christian had been seeing Julia’s face lately in the women he was intimate with, but before Julia comes over, he suddenly gets an attack of conscience.  He decides to drive her back to Sean in the only way he can.  Julia comes over that night, champagne in hand, to discover Christian in bed with Mandi and Randi.  After hitting on Grace (which she turns down), Sean decides he is being silly and moves back in.  Sean and Julia make up by having sex.  Later, after firing Dr. Pendleton, Sean offers Grace a job as the new staff psychologist (which she accepts.)  Elsewhere in the McNamara household, Matt is making out with Vanessa when she suggests that they should go all the way.  He tries to slip on a condom, by she insists on seeing his manhood first.  He shows her, after which she changes her mind and says that they should just make out instead.  Matt later looks up self-circumcision on the Internet, and after taking a drink of wine, starts to circumcise himself.  He takes one look at the blood on his fingers and passes out.


This show is probably the most boundary-pushing show I have seen yet on basic cable.  Ironically, it beats the previous top basic cable boundary pusher, “The Shield,” another show that just happens to air on FX.  It has graphic violence, surgery procedures that you have never seen on “E.R.,” nudity that makes “NYPD Blue” look prudent, and almost every swear word left to say (except maybe the variations of the F-word.)  If you came across this show and you didn’t know that you were on FX, you’d swear you were watching HBO.  I am not grossed out often, but this show did it to me a few times!


Does this mean I object to the show?  Not at all.  If a show has a good story, I will watch.  An example of a show that had violence and sex without an interesting story would be NBC’s “Kingpin.”  This show invokes discussions over topics like professional ethics and vanity.  I am interested in all of the subplots going on, from Matt’s insecurities, to Sean and Julia’s volatile marriage, to Christian’s flirting with Julia.  I’m also interested to find out if anything will happen with Sean and Grace (assuming she survives the next episode.  The trailer for it implies that an overweight girl who has been denied a procedure shoots and kills Grace.)

I have to give kudos to FX for becoming the HBO of basic cable.  They are no longer just a place for syndicated reruns and “repurposed” episodes of FOX shows.  First, it was “The Shield,” then they gave us the quirky (though now cancelled) “Lucky,” and now we have “Nip/Tuck.”  Sure, it is very bloody and nasty, and if you are a parent you should set the V-chip on it, but gratuitous material can only take you so far.  A show has to have some substance to it to get viewers to come back week after week.  This show has it, and I don’t see it needing a facelift any time soon.  Like the customers of my mom’s card shop, I believe viewers will come back every week for another treatment.

Ratings System:


Try to catch this show every week...

If a better show is on, tape this one...

If nothing else is on, maybe this will be good...

If this show is on, change the channel immediately!


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