Friday, 22 March 2013

Late to the Party: Nip/Tuck Seasons 1-3

I seem to have missed a number of hit US series in the mid-00s. Working three jobs and writing a PhD can really impinge on one's ability to engage with...well everything and everyone. One series I have only just caught up on is Nip/Tuck: I thought I may as well give it a bash as part of my Ryan Murphy kick, having recently caught American Horror Story and some fragments of Glee. Yeah, you heard me, Glee - if you haven't heard the auto-tuning, you do not know genuine horror.
On the grapevine, I heard that the first three series of Nip/Tuck are worthwhile, and beyond that point the series becomes silly. Given that the ending of season three was an absolute farce, I dread to think how ludicrous season six is. In fact, the rot sets in very early on. Mid-way through season two, we are treated to a hallucinatory "here's what your life would have been like if..." episode, a trope I thought was reserved only for the televisual equivalent of a broken legged race horse. The opening of series three pulls a similar stunt, with even less impact.
The running storyline between seasons two and three - which centres on a masked serial rapist - is also flawed, and not just because of its dire conclusion. Presumably the arc was introduced to breathe life into what would otherwise be episode-by-episode investigations into specific (and increasingly bizarre) surgical procedures. The shame of it is that the first series contains some really neat ideas: the surgeries parallel personal issues in the lead protagonists' lives. However, by the second season's rather tasteless conjoined twins episode, even that trait has become sledgehammer in approach.
Perhaps this lack of subtlety is apposite given the theme of cosmetic surgery. The protagonists' careers are centred on shaping their clients' looks in a world obsessed with appearances (as the script-writers insist on continually reiterating). It seems apt that the storylines become increasingly sensationalistic and superficial, then. Moreover, the show's clean, glossy aesthetic - which reminded me of the videogame Mirror's Edge - underscores how shallow and artificial the protagonists' professional lives are. Even the deep-seated marital and personal traumas that unravel as the series progresses feel like soap-opera constructions rather than meaningful revelations. However apt that tone may be, ultimately, Nip/Tuck's dramatic trajectory is harder to stomach than the show's realistic visceral effects.      

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