In its four previous seasons, Nip/Tuck oscillated between incisive brilliance and eye-rolling mediocrity, often within a single episode. Last year’s organ-theft story line made it clear the series would require a radical shake-up in order to stay interesting, and by moving the action from Miami to Los Angeles, creator Ryan Murphy has achieved what was needed and then some.
Once Miami’s top cosmetic surgeons, Dr. Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) and Dr. Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) are hicks from the sticks in L.A., where rival practices are outnumbered only by Starbucks outlets (“I feel like I’m selling semen in a whorehouse,” Christian grumbles). The lads soon sign on with an elite publicist (Lauren Hutton) who lands them a gig consulting on a TV series, which Murphy uses to satirize Grey’s Anatomy as well as Nip/Tuck itself. As a result of the job, the heretofore meek Sean morphs into the alpha of the pair, while Christian, traditionally the stud, succumbs to insecurity. The series has always been at its best when the openly gay Murphy uses Christian as a means of exploring the psyche of straight men, and giving the doctor a midlife crisis helps take the focus off the increasingly outlandish procedures du jour, putting the characters front and center once again. L.A. is hardly an original backdrop for a TV series, but showing the town through the eyes of outsiders provides a vivid sense of its seaminess that’s missing from many SoCal dramas. The first two episodes are loaded with well-cast guests (including Oliver Platt, Bradley Cooper, Daphne Zuniga and Paula Marshall) who effortlessly adapt to the series’s hard-to-nail blend of comedy, soap opera and psychodrama. After a lumpy fourth season, Nip/Tuck is finally fun again, and it’s been too easy to forget just how entertaining it can be.