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DVD Rack — Nip/Tuck Season 5 Part 2

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Ahhh, I remember the days when I couldn’t get enough of Nip/Tuck. Season after season, plastic surgeons Christian Troy and Sean McNamara spent their days making others share their obsession with beauty, sculpting and chiseling patients according to their specified notions of physical perfection — all the while conducting themselves in a morally questionable manner. As best friends and colleagues, Sean and Christian have competed for everything: professional acclaim, fame, women (most notably, Julia, Sean’s ex-wife, who mothered Christian’s baby after hooking up with him while engaged to Sean), money, control over their business, and more. And while Christian was typically unapologetic about his lascivious, manipulative, and often cruel and pathological behavior, Sean stood as the voice of reason, the stern, responsible, grounded half of the duo. Of course, as the series unfolded, Sean found himself behaving in as deplorable a manner as Christian, the man whose behavior he so often questioned. But that’s the beauty of the show — all the characters are damaged and flawed, capable of both the kindest and cruelest of acts. No amount of surgery can heal their emotional and mental wounds, and the more the characters strive for perfection rather than come to terms with their humanity, the more they fall short.

Over the years, the deranged story lines and sinister, soap opera-like dynamics have been part of the series’ charm. Sean discovered that Matt, his teenage son, was actually Christian’s biological son. Matt fell in love with a woman he later discovered was born a man. Sean was attacked by a masked slasher who brutalized the Miami area. There’s been no shortage of outlandish but somehow delicious plots. Still, despite the far-fetched nature of so many of these story lines, we could suspend belief and merely enjoy the ride. That is, until Season 4, when Julia started gallivanting with her midget nanny, Christian fell for a woman involved in the organ harvesting trade, and Kimber and Matt decided to wed. At that point, the series felt like it was starting to spin out of control, moving too deep into the surreal realm that had once surrounded (without permeating) the show.

For Season 5, the show’s writers brought in some fresh characters and a different setting in hopes of infusing some new life into the show. Season 5, then, finds Sean and Christian relocating to Los Angeles and attempting to reach the same level of success in a much more saturated market, where plastic surgeons abound. After months of slow business, they meet and charm a Hollywood publicist, who books them a consulting gig on a TV show centered on a plastic surgeon. A guest appearance lands Sean a recurring role in the TV drama, transforming him into a star. During this time, Julia visits from New York — but, this time, she brought along her lover Olivia (played by Portia DeRossi). Yes, apparently, the ever experimental Julia is now a lesbian. Go figure.

The first half of Season 5 mostly focuses on Sean: how fame makes him increasingly self-absorbed, his reaction to Julia’s lesbianism, his lustful relationship with a manipulative young girl who winds up being Olivia’s daughter, and his entanglement with a psychotic agent who winds up being a stalker. Christian reignites his flame with Julia but, beyond that, he isn’t given too many juicy plot lines this season — a darned shame. Still, the first half of Season 5 manages to rise above Season 4 and reignite some of the spark in the series — particularly thanks to the plot involving Olivia’s conniving daughter, who excels at playing the villain role .

Unfortunately, the second half of Season 5 isn’t quite as dynamic — in fact, it’s been the worst string of episodes in Nip/Tuck history. The story lines aren’t just far-fetched — they’re stale, morose, somber and depressing. Sean becomes involved with a new anesthesiologist with a dark side and tries to explore being more of a daredevil (which even looks ridiculous given his age and personality). Now back to full-fledged bitch mode, Kimber tries to get her infant daughter plastic surgery so as to land her more showbiz gigs. And worst of all, Christian discovers he has terminal breast cancer.

Christian’s illness is the central plot element this season, but it feels like a weak attempt to draw sympathy from viewers. After all, how could they possibly kill Christian off and continue the series? What would the show be without Christian? Out of the two main characters, Christian has always been the more fascinating, charismatic one. It’s his twisted genius that propels the show forward. There’s no pizazz without Christian’s antics. Audiences want to see Christian Troy bedding women and shuddering at the mere thought of commitment, then aching for a life partner when loneliness seeps in. They want to see him be cruel and selfish, then show a compassionate, vulnerable side when least expected. Landing him in a bed for most of the season hardly seems like a smart move.

It’ no surprise, then, that Nip/Tuck will soon be canceled. After all, the show’s writers seem to have written themselves into a corner out of which they simply can’t escape. It’s time to tuck Nip/Tuck away rather than let its quality drop any further.

Nip/Tuck Season 5 Part 2, $39.98. Buy for $24.99 at Amazon.com

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