“Nip/Tuck” wants to get a load off its chest, and FX has afforded its newest push-the-boundaries dramatic series a full 90 minutes to let it all out. It’s a bit much. As the title suggests, the show focuses on two plastic surgeons — one’s a playboy grabbing the material goods though missing any sense of familial ties, the other’s a married man heading into mid-life and mid-career crisis. Lack of likable characters may be show’s downfall, though if future hourlongs focus on ethical and personal dilemmas rather than pile them on as occurs in the pilot, “Nip/Tuck” has some promise.
Where FX and the show’s producers chose to push the boundaries is obvious: a bit of swearing; some explicit (for basic cable) casual sex; and the doctors, as younger men, smoking dope — imagine a racy “Eight Is Enough” script. It’s the type of content that most likely will prevent a network crossover, not to mention that medical shows with multiple plotlines have flopped in the last two seasons. In the hopes of building an audience, FX has scheduled an encore week — Aug. 25-29 — for the first five episodes.
Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) have a thriving plastic surgery business in Miami — exactly what the two best friends wanted when they graduated medical school, one guesses, 15 years before. Dr. Troy is our playboy; Dr. McNamara, the family man with two children.
Troy leads a simple, formulaic life: Operate, bill, party, have sex, spend money, repeat. McNamara starts to come apart at the seams on two fronts, starting with the question of his own morality after he takes drug money to operate on a known criminal who, it turns out, is also a child molester. Eventually, both doctors come to fear for their lives as local crime boss Silvio Perez (Geoffrey Rivas) intervenes. (Botox injections as a murder weapon. Interesting.)
Far more serious are the concerns of his wife, Julia (Joely Richardson), and teenage son, Matt (John Hensley), both of whom feel ignored and distant from McNamara and, in their own ways, demand changes. She wants to attend med school and, more important, to feel appreciated and wanted; Matt wants a circumcision.
McMahon’s Troy is the character who will most likely attract viewers, especially women. He’s suave and in control, seemingly capable of turning any situation into a big positive for himself. While it almost goes without saying that he’s the one who gets the hot sex scenes with the twentysomething model, he’s also the reassuring presence for the married woman concerned about the beauty of her body.
When Troy gets angry, it’s visceral and fully in character; Ryan Murphy’s script provides Troy with clearly delineated moral and business boundaries.
Conversely, Walsh has to put McNamara into a quick spiral; with so much weighing on him, his reactions to problems come out of left field. If the pilot allowed us to see McNamara solely as a fit surgeon working for the “good life” and then used the second seg to explore his crumbling home, audience would develop a greater compassion for his inner struggles. Truth be told, McNamara just seems like a guy in need of a vacation.
Richardson’s Julia grows both assertive and nostalgic over the course of the pilot. Female auds may connect with her pain caused by compromise and sacrifice that have had little payoff in her life. As viewers enter the McNamara household, divorce appears the only logical solution.
Murphy’s direction solidly drives the emotional swings, from hot and bothered to vile and upsetting. Music has its overbearing moments and could use some toning down.