Season Five, Part One
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All photos © FX
Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
ip/Tuck” is the kind of show that people often refer to as a guilty pleasure. Normally, that’s a phrase that seems sort of hollow to me. After all, if you enjoy a TV show or movie, why feel guilty about it? But in the case of “Nip/Tuck,” and coming from someone who’s been with it every sordid step of the way, I can understand where the guilt might start creeping in. It is, after all, tasteless, vulgar, trashy, over-the-top fare that most people probably don’t care to admit they enjoy. I can count the number of people I know that watch it on one hand. And, yet, it’s FX’s biggest ratings grabber, so either I move in some strange circles, or some people are lying about what they’re doing on Tuesday nights.
At the conclusion of Season Four, plastic surgeons Drs. McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Troy (Julian McMahon) had packed up their scalpels and headed for sunny Beverly Hills – after all, what better place for two amoral surgeons than Hollywood? – so Season Five is something of a new start for the offices of McNamara/Troy. Although at season’s start, business isn’t so hot. In Miami, Sean and Christian were big fish in a little pond; in L.A., however, they’re minnows swimming with sharks. In order to boost their profile, they agree to join a crappy TV series called “Hearts ‘N Scalpels” as technical advisors who will also briefly appear onscreen during the surgery sequences (which nicely echoes the role of Linda Klein’s character Nurse Linda on “Nip/Tuck” itself). At first, Christian is certain that this is his ticket to fame, while Sean is reluctant about the entire affair, but the tables quickly turn when the camera favors Sean, and Christian sulks away to soothe his bruised ego in all manner of seedy ways. Sean becomes the toast of the town and even begins dating the show’s leading lady, Kate (Paula Marshall), becoming party buds with the vacuous leading man, Aidan (Bradley Cooper). Meanwhile, Christian becomes a male escort (!), and there’s a bizarre encounter with “Babylon 5’s” Claudia Christian that must be seen to be believed.
It’s mostly business as usual for the first two episodes, but the beginning of the third signals that all will eventually go to shit, because “Nip/Tuck” is nothing if it’s not wallowing in wretched excess. Sean and Kate are taking a dip in a hot tub when she loses control of her bowels and, well, like I said, everything starts going to shit. And then Sean’s ex, Julia (Joely Richardson). shows up with kids Annie and Connor in tow, and mama’s got a new brand new bag – a girlfriend, Olivia, played by none other than Portia de Rossi! Olivia’s got a kid, too: Eden, (Annalynne McCord, "90210"), a twisted little lolita who sets her sights on destroying everything in her path.
The Eden storyline at its worst makes for uncomfortable viewing, what with Sean’s slobbering all over her every chance he gets, but at best it makes for something of an upswing in the “Nip/Tuck” villainy department, since for the first time in recent seasons, we aren’t asked to believe in anything too far off the beaten path. Eden’s just a psychotic little girl, not a knife-wielding madman, a vicious drug lord, or an organ harvester; somehow, it almost feels right that the boys have to go all the way to sunny California to meet such a creature. But an even greater evil lurks in the shadows, waiting to pounce, and perhaps there are worse things waiting in Hollywood than an attention-starved teenager. And, no, I’m not talking about the Ass Bandit or the aliens that have implanted a tracking device in an old scientist. Ahhh, “Nip/Tuck.” Where will I focus my seedy energies once you’ve gone off the air?
Other season highlights: Matt (John Hensley) setting himself on fire to “Total Eclipse of the Heart”; a highly amusing reality show episode; the usually squeaky clean John Schneider as a porn kingpin named Ram Peters; two full episodes of Rosie O’Donnell’s obnoxious Dawn Budge suffering numerous indignities; and a whole host of other weird surprises spread out over 14 installments. The truth is – and most any “Nip/Tuck” fan will probably agree – the show will never again scale the heights of its first two seasons, which were both as perfect as even the best fare you’ve seen on TV in the last ten years. And yet we keep watching.
Oddly, when this batch of episodes played on FX, I really didn’t care for them, and saw a show struggling for air. If you felt at all the same, I urge you to give this set a spin, because I saw the season in a whole new light this time around, and actually found myself having a lot of fun with the series, which I hadn’t really had in a couple years. As far as the whole “Season Five, Part One” thing goes, the series is gearing up another round of eight episodes which technically will finish up Season Five, although creator Ryan Murphy has said that the labeling is more of an internal thing, and that the new episodes probably won’t have much to do with what’s on this set. In other words, just think of this as Season Five and be done with it.
Special Features: Very little here, folks. “Hollywood Hedonism” is a brief featurette on the show’s transition from Miami to Hollywood and there’s also an uninspired gag reel. The highlight of the extras is the handful of deleted scenes, many of which are great little additions – and at least one of them, featuring Portia de Rossi and Roma Maffia, will leave you wondering why on earth it was cut!