4B - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 7, 2006
Excess vs. substance: 'Nip/Tuck' gets down and dirty
By Caitlin Cowan
Daily B-Side Editor
In the world of entertainment, more
is always more, and it appears that "Nip/
Tuck" series creator Ryan Murphy agrees.
Murphy's graphic, sexy plastic surgery
drama, which airs Tuesday nights on the
FX network, had its season premiere
Tuesday night. With the storyline in a
slump after last season's disappointing
and fairly improbable finale, it seems that
Murphy has seen fit to salt and pepper the
tasteless new season with dozens of guest
stars and lots and lots of gratuitous sex.
Did I mention the gratuitous sex?
Just minutes after the title music ends,
Dr. Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh)
goes home to have explicit sex with his
pregnant wife, and Dr. Christian Troy
(Julian McMahon) takes home a mother-
and-daughter nympho tag team and has
his way with both of them. There were
no startling confessions, hard plot twists
or any solid dialogue at all. In lieu of
the drama promised, audiences received
McMahon discussing his penchant for
"hair pie" over drinks with his partner.
Sex sells, and Murphy knows it.
The crown jewel on the show's tiara of
excess is the addition of Brooke Shields
to the cast. Shields, evidently unsatisfied
with the recent gossip she has promul-
gated through her public feud with Tom
Cruise, debuts as Christian's therapist. At
first, everything seems normal: Shields
tries desperately to act her way out of
a plastic bag, and Christian flexes his
macho muscles. But by the end of the epi-
sode, Shields is bent over her desk, taking
it like a champ while Christian pants and
grunts his way to the final scene.
Creator Murphy adds other guest stars
to bolster the new season's flimsy plot; in
the premiere alone, three big-name stars
show up. In addition to Shields, Larry
Hagman of "Dallas" fame appears at
the episode's outset, desperate for kiwi-
sized testicular implants that will make
his package seem more "proportionate"
to his apparently gigantic manhood.
Kathleen Turner joins to the queue of
sexualized clients as an aging phone sex
operator hoping to recover her voice from
years of smoking Marlboros and guz-
zling Jack Daniels.
At one time, Murphy's willingness to
push "Nip/Tuck" and its characters to the
limits of credibility was what made the
show provocative. Since its premiere in
2003, the show has successfully teased
the boundary lines of indecency. Women
with packets of heroin inside their breast
implants, supermodels begging for clito-
ral reconstructive surgery and a rampag-
ing mutilator known as "The Carver" all
made appearances without seeming gim-
micky or contrived.
Audiences ate up this kind of absurdity
for one reason: It still seemed real, and
the two hotshot doctors were still empa-
thetic. But take away the over-the-top sex
scenes and all-star lineup of cameos from
this season's premiere and "Nip/Tuck" is
just the story of two egomaniacal, bloated
surgeons with no redeeming characteris-
tics. If the plot doesn't shape up, the show
will soon join the ranks with the other
garbage that is currently clogging up air-
waves, TV screens and theaters.
Substituting high-stakes scandal and
carnage for content appears to be a trend
plaguing not only TV series creators
like Murphy, but film directors through-
out the industry as well. When Bruck-
heimer-esque action flicks succumb to
paper-thin plots, directors are quick to
add in more fatal explosions and lengthy,
head-bashing alley fights to fill the two-
hour time frame.
Some recent horror flicks like "The
Omen" and "The Hills Have Eyes" didn't
hesitate to flash gory montages of saber-
toothed demonic children and blood-cov-
ered faces across the screen when their
stories lacked the proper tension created
by well-made films. The audible gasps
echoing in theaters were created not by
the thrills associated with a good scare,
"Really? You like sex?"
but instead from full-on sensual assaults
caused by the grotesque imagery spliced
into even the calmest of scenes.
When substance is in short supply, it
seems that shock value and sex are easy
replacements. This is a disease that preys
on creativity, and if directors everywhere
fail to take notice, there won't be any-
thing left to watch. The young doctors
on "Grey's Anatomy" will start com-
ing to work topless, a Carnival cruise
ship of guest stars will find themselves
shipwrecked on the island of "Lost" and
Denis Leary will light himself on fire on
At one time, television shows and mov-
ies held audiences captive by creating
relatable characters and applying dramat-
ic pressure to carefully crafted storylines.
But when audiences don't care about the
characters, all that's left is bombs, boobs