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Ceci n'est pas une "dating blog."

Friday, July 15, 2005

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Emmy nominations are out and for the second year in a row, the F/X channel's marvelous Nip/Tuck has been overlooked. I know many people who have never seen the show and regard me with great incredulousness whenever I rave about it. "You mean that plastic surgery show?" they'll say inquisitively. Yes, it is true that "that show" is on the surface, about a pair of plastic surgeons in Miami, Florida. But to dismiss it as a show simply about people who undergo cosmetic surgery is to miss its point altogether.

In Nip/Tuck plastic surgery is used as a spring board to explore societal obessessions with surfaces--corporeal, decorative and those existing within human bonds--to expose the bruises, contradictions and at times even starteling beauty that such manufactured facades seek to mask and simplify. In Nip/Tuck Dylan Walsh and the sublime Julian McMahon play Dr. Sean McNamera and Dr. Christian Troy, best friends whose relationship has weathered some strain over the years due to their competing affections of Sean's wife Julia (Joley Richardson) and their conflicting philosophies over how to run their joint plastic surgery practice. Sean is initially portrayed as a devoted family man and stalwart moralist, while as his foil Christian is a nihilistic sex-obessed, Gucci wearing cassanova with a penchant for fast cars, hard drugs and barely legal models. Yet over the course of the series first two seasons, we've seen these intial characterizations stripped away as Sean enjoyes a dalliance with a former patient, sees his once seemingly stable marraige crumble away and alientes the loyalty of his two children, Annie (one of those TV kids like Caitlin in the OC who we rarely see) and teenaged Matt who has delt with losing his virginity, a lesbian girlfriend, and a complicated relationship with an older woman (played by Famke Jahnsen). Christian on the other hand, finds unexpected contentment as a father (at least for a short time), grapples with his abilties as a surgeon, and comes to rescue the doomed fashion model Kimber from her inevitable decine into drug use and abusive relationships.

In each episode of the show assumptions created by initial impressions are gradually stripped away to reveal hidden truths. No situation, relationship, or person is who they seem. Plastic surgery is employed as a metaphor for our compulsion to cover, beautify and simplify what is conflicting, ugly or shameful. It's a practice that each of employ in our daily lives, and with Nip/Tuck we have this human comonality reflected back at us. The effect is at once disturbing and oddly comforting.

Critics have come down on the show for its tendency towards mellowdrama, and it is true that the series does plunge a bit too far into the grotesque and the maudlin (an epidsode about separating conjoined twins is just one example). But look beyond such plot lines and Nip/Tuck presents itself as the perfect soap opera--slick, dark, dented by twisted and gnarling plot lines. It's as if Hans Christian Anderson reincarnated and chose modern day Miami for his cautionary tales.

I could go on for ages about the show and to be truthful, I can't come close to doing it justice. Instead you'll have to watch for yourself. The new season begins in September.


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