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The dramedy about plastic surgery runs more than skin deep,
This review is from: Nip/Tuck: Complete First Season [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
I heard about "Nip/Tuck" and since it was about plastic surgery, I avoided watching it. I appreciate the importance of plastic surgery in restoring the looks of patients, but am less enthused by cosmetic surgery to improve personal appearance, mainly because I do not consider being pretty or handsome to be that important (being neither makes it an easy position to hold). But more importantly I avoided taking biology in high school and college because I was not going to take a scalpel and start dissecting a frog (or worse). I still remember the anti-smoking film I saw in health class and how everybody freaked during the lung cancer operation. It was not taking out the diseased lung, but the bit where the surgeon cut into his chest that had everybody gagging. But several students recommended the series and I decided to check it out. Surprisingly I made it all the way to Episode 24, "Natasha Charles," before I got to something that freaked me and had me yelling "No!" over and over again so loudly my wife came running because she thought something had happened to me (you will know it when you see it, and that is all I can say if I want to continue writing this review).
Of course the show is not really about plastic surgery, although in pretty much every episode there comes a point where we get to see it performed. "Nip/Tuck" is about the people who require the surgery and the surgeons who perform it. In Miami we find McNamara/Troy, a plastic surgery practice co-owned by Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and his best friend, Christian Troy (Julian McMahon). Sean is married to his college sweetheart, Julia McNamara (Joely Richardson), and has two children, a teenage son named Matt (John Hensley) and a younger daughter named Annie (Kelsey Lynn Batelaan). There is something of a love triangle between Sean, Christian, and Julia, but what is pivotal to the dynamic of the show are not the feelings that Christian and Julia have or still have for each other. Central to the series is that fact that in the final analysis, Sean cares more for his best friend than he does for himself. Beyond that it is painfully obvious that Sean and Christian are the sort of opposites that make for good partners: Christian has yet to find anybody he loves more than himself, and Sean will always put the welfare of others before his own. These tragic flaws do not turn every episodes into a mini-Greek tragedy, but there are moments of pain.
The patients that come to McNamara/Troy are the catalyst for what happens, and if there is often a dramatic irony that exists between the problems of the patient and the ongoing personal traumas of the main characters, we should not be that surprised. The initial question that patients are asked is "Tell me what you don't like about yourself?" The point of the question is about their appearance, but obvious the answer runs deeper than the person's skin. It does not take long to establish that patients of all kinds come to McNamara/Troy for surgery. So there are patients who need plastic surgery after a car accident ("Cara Fitzgerald") and those who want it for cosmetic reasons, such as a pair of twins who want to look different from each other ("Mandi/Randi"). Each episode is named for the primary patient, but you only know the titles from the menus. This matters only on a few episodes where the title is for one of the main or supporting characters, in which case you know they are going to need medical attention by the end of the episode.
There are a couple of key story arcs throughout the first season, starting (and ending) with the drug lord Escobar Gallardo (Robert La Sardo), after Troy operates on somebody who wants to hide from Gallardo, who becomes more and more involved in their business, sending them mules from Columbia are smuggling drugs in breast implants. Merril Bobolit (Joey Slotnick), a rival plastic surgeon, takes away business from McNamara/Troy by using advertising and other tricks, while Mrs. Grubman (Ruth Williamson) has developed an addiction to plastic surgery. Meanwhile, somebody is vandalizing Troy's possessions, Sean becomes close with a patient (Julie Warner), and a transsexual named Sophia Lopez (Jonathan Del Arco) develops a friendship with Liz Cruz (Roma Maffia), the resident anesthesiologist. Consequently, each episode has a self-contained story, but each is part of the larger picture and the image in the mirror is a constant reminder that looks are not everything. If you can stomach the surgery scenes (including the do it yourself circumcision), then "Nip/Tuck" could get you hooked on its peculiar look at the human condition.