Why I Should Binge-Watch Nip/Tuck

Dave Lange

WHAT IS NIP/TUCK ABOUT?

Nip/Tuck is a dark drama series revolving around two plastic surgeons who are best friends, partners – and polar opposites. One is a randy playboy; the other is a dedicated family man. But their life paths criss-cross in a number of different ways, a lot of them not so nice.

Original TV Home: FX

Number Of Seasons: 6 (2003 – 2010)

Total Episodes / Time Table: 100 Episodes (40 to 68 minutes each) = approx. 100 hours

Viewing Strategy: The number of episodes vary per season. (Season 1 = 13 episodes. Season 2 = 16 episodes. Season 3 and 4 = 15 episodes each. Season 5, Part 1 = 14 episodes. Season 5, Part 2 = 8 episodes. Season 6, Part 1 = 10 episodes. Season 6, Part 2 = 9 episodes.) You can complete the entire series in a month by watching three to four episodes per day.

WHO’S IN IT? Top

Dylan Walsh, Julian McMahon, Joely Richardson, Roma Maffia, John Hensley, Linda Klein, Kelsey Batelaan, Kelly Carlson, Jessalyn Gilsig and Bruno Campos. Also, a long and impressive list of recurring and guest stars, including Kate Mara, Valerie Cruz, Robert LaSardo, Phillip Rhys, Joan Rivers, Portia De Rossi, Vanessa Redgrave, Famke Janssen, Mario Lopez, Jacqueline Bisset, Bradley Cooper, Rose McGowan, Sharon Gless, Larry Hagman, John Schneider, Oliver Platt, Rhona Mitra, Rosie O’Donnell, Brooke Shields, Alec Baldwin, Joan Van Ark and Donna Mills.

WHERE IS IT NOW? Top

Amazon Prime / Amazon Instant Video (U.S.); Netflix (Canada).
Also available on DVD (each season available via individual box sets; all seven seasons also available in one collective box set).

WHY IS IT BINGE WORTHY? Top

NIP/TUCK: SEASON 6: L-R: Julian McMahon, Dylan Walsh. Photo credit: Mark Seliger/FX
NIP/TUCK: SEASON 6: L-R: Julian McMahon, Dylan Walsh. Photo credit: Mark Seliger/FX

During its debut season, Nip/Tuck quickly became the top-rated new series on American basic cable. And although it won only one Emmy Award (for makeup) in 2004 and only one Golden Globe (as best TV drama series) in 2005, the show did receive more than 40 nominations in a bunch of Emmy and Golden Globe categories during its run.

The brainchild of executive producer Ryan Murphy, who went on to additional critical and viewer acclaim as the creative force behind Fox’s Glee and FX’s super-spooky American Horror Story anthology, Nip/Tuck was truly a groundbreaking production, full of carnal energy designed for adult eyes only. Ahead of its time in many ways, it pushed the boundaries of basic cable as it explored its dark themes and showcased its graphic surgical re-enactments and extremely libidinous sex scenes.

Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon co-star as Sean McNamara and Christian Troy, two plastic surgeons based in Miami for the first four seasons and, later, in Los Angeles. The two docs share a long personal history that is intertwined in many ways, stretching back to their college days and also involving Sean’s wife, Julia (played by Joely Richardson), who had been Christian’s girlfriend before she and Sean hooked up. There’s a lot of baggage and tension that lingers in the trio’s relationship, which is at the core of much of the show’s emotional journey.

But there’s a ton of other tension that oozes out of all of the characters’ relationships. Rounding out the core cast: John Hensley as Sean and Julia’s teenage son, Matt, and Roma Maffia as Sean and Christian’s anesthesiologist, Dr. Liz Cruz. Also notable: Kelly Carlson as Kimber Henry, a model whom Christian first meets (and beds) in the show’s opening episode; Jessalyn Gilsig as Gina Russo, a sexaholic who becomes entangled in Christian’s life; Valerie Cruz as Dr. Grace Santiago, a psychologist who joins the McNamara/Troy office early in the show; and Bruno Campos as Quentin Costa, a cosmetic surgeon who comes aboard as an associate (and much more) later on.

Although both Sean and Christian are going through a mid-life crisis, they are polar opposites in the way they deal with their lives, whether it be professionally, personally, ethically or morally. Troy is basically a horn dog with a lot of notches on his bed post, while Sean is a tightly-wound and dedicated family man grappling with certain other demons. Their life journeys take them down different and yet similar paths, including encounters with a few criminal elements that sometimes stretch the boundaries of the series to extreme areas.

MUST SEES … Top

Always captivating and enjoyable to watch, the stylized sequences and the intriguing theme song (A Perfect Lie) of the opening credits weren’t introduced until the second episode, Mandi/Randi. They were then used for the rest of the series.

Nip/Tuck actually had an unorthodox run that varied from one season to the next. After spending its first two seasons as a summer series, it was moved to the fall. Despite initial skepticism and fears of heavy competition, the third season ended up garnering the most viewers.

The show’s run was interrupted by a Writers Guild of America strike in late 2007 and early 2008 – an event that put many shows (including the 2008 Golden Globe Awards) out of commission. The strike also led the fifth season of Nip/Tuck to be split into two parts: 14 episodes made up the first portion of the season in the fall of 2007, while the remaining nine instalments didn’t show up until January 2009.

The sixth season aired in two parts as well. Although a seventh season had initially been set to air in 2011, the final nine episodes of that season ended up merged with the 10 episodes of the sixth season, with only a three-week hiatus in between.

As for must-see episodes, check these out:

Pilot (Season 1, Episode 1): Not only does the pilot episode set the stage for the entire series, the very first scene features a couple of shady characters. You might recognize the actor who plays one of them, a character named Alejandro Pérez, who returns in another episode called Merrill Bobolit (Season 4, Episode 10). Nip-Tuck-S1-E1Pérez is played by Raymond Cruz, who went on to greater fame as Paco on NBC’s My Name Is Earl and then as Detective Julio Sanchez on TNT’s The Closer and its current spinoff, Major Crimes – and as ruthless drug lord Tuco Salamanca on AMC’s Breaking Bad and its current spinoff, Better Call Saul.

Mandi/Randi (Season 1, Episode 2), Nanette Babcock (Season 1, Episode 3) and Megan O’Hara (Season 1, Episode 6) all feature Sean’s son, Matt, in an unusual relationship with a would-be cheerleader-girlfriend, Vanessa, who is played by Kate Mara, now better known as reporter/blogger Zoe Barnes on Netflix’s House Of Cards.

Kurt Dempsey (Season 1, Episode 5): The episode introduces Jessalyn Gilsig as Gina, a sexaholic who falls victim to Christian’s charms, begins a love/hate sexual relationship and eventually has a significant impact on his life.

Cara Fitzgerald (Season 1, Episode 8) has a great set of parallel scenes in which Christian and Sean argue over turning in a patient over to the police, while Matt and a friend argue over turning themselves in over a hit-and-run accident that left a female student horribly disfigured. The parallel-scene device is used again in episodes during other seasons, including a super-tense sequence in Quentin Costa (Season 3, Episode 15) that fuels the rousing, climactic finale to the show’s third season.

Adelle Coffin (Season 1, Episode 10) features a quirky couple of scenes in which Sean is involved in surreal conversations with a cadaver’s head while he is going through a recertification test.

Nip-Tuck-S2-E16Joan Rivers (Season 2, Episode 16): Joan Rivers shows up as herself, asking Christian and Sean to reverse some of the procedures she has undergone.

Cherry Peck (Season 3, Episode 14) and Quentin Costa (Season 3, Episode 15): These two episodes actually aired back-to-back as a two-hour season finale – which ended up being the most-watched installment of the series – and the most-watched scripted program in the history of FX. And, yes, that IS Willam from RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Hiro Yoshimura (Season 6, Episode 19): The series finale showcases a final “family dinner” in which goodbyes are said as Julia gets set to leave for London. The final scene of the episode also brings things full circle, with Christian meeting a blonde model in a bar, in the same way he met Kimber in the show’s opener.

MOST SHOCKING EPISODES Top

The shockers are too numerous to mention them all. Plus, almost every episode has some sort of surgery re-enactment that will make you wince. The scenes are graphic and sometimes downright gross and shocking. But the music that accompanies them is usually captivating – and sometimes even comical. Still, there are a couple of shocking episodes that stand out:

Pilot (Season 1, Episode 1): Christian’s encounters with drug criminals actually set the stage for some future episodes where they re-enter the picture.

Antonia Ramos (Season 1, Episode 12) and Escobar Gallardo (Season 1, Episode 13): Sean and Christian’s bad experience with drug lord Escobar Gallardo (Robert LaSardo) in the pilot episode comes back to haunt them when they end up being forced to remove female breast implants that are filled with liquid heroin. Oh, and there’s plenty more that happens in this season finale.

Sean McNamara (Season 2, Episode 15) and Joan Rivers (Season 2, Episode 16): The evil doings of a masked serial attacker/rapist/killer called The Carver are introduced early in the show’s second season, but his attacks in these two episodes take things to a whole new level.

Quentin Costa (Season 3, Episode 15): The Carver reveals his identity to Sean and Christian in a creepy and disturbing plot climax. But that’s not the only twist that happens …

Shari Noble (Season 4, Episode 4): Let’s just say we weren’t expecting this one from the former Laura Ingalls star (Melissa Gilbert). An enlightening warning on peanut butter and dogs.

THAT LINE WAS SO GREAT… Top

“Tell me what you don’t like about yourself.”

– It’s Nip/Tuck’s signature line – and the line that kick-starts almost all of the show’s episodes. Whether it’s delivered by Sean or Christian, the line is usually part of the consultation that introduces us to the characters whose names make up the episode titles.

“When you stop striving for perfection, you might as well be dead.”

– From Pilot (Season 1, Episode 1): Julian explains to his gorgeous conquest, Kimber, how he can turn her from an “8” into a “10.”

“You always were a lousy lay, Sean,” a fed-up Julia says.

“Oh yeah? You’re either a liar or a very good actress. I know your body. I always have,” an angry Sean replies. “I know right where you live and breathe.”

“Then why haven’t I had an orgasm in two years?” she shoots back.

“Because,” he says, “I didn’t want to work that hard.”

– From Mandi/Randi (Season 1, Episode 2): It’s a great scene that illustrates the love/hate/passion that keeps bubbling up between Sean and Julia throughout much of the series.

“Take off your judgmental blinders, Sean. The line that divides the porn industry and plastic surgery is a thin one. We’re both selling fantasy, aren’t we?”

– From Sophia Lopez (Season 1, Episode 4): Christian arguing with Sean over whether it is ethically right for them to have porn stars as patients.

“You want medical stats, Sean, how about this one: Women who have breast implants are three times more likely to kill themselves than women who don’t. Does that mean we’re not stuffing any more tits in this office?”

– From Nanette Babcock (Season 1, Episode 3): Christian confronts Sean over the issue of whether they should operate on manic-depressive patients.

“I counted each contraction. Three times. Or were you doing your … kegel exercises?”

– From Megan O’Hara (Season 1, Episode 6): Christian tearing into staff psychologist Grace Santiago (Valerie Cruz) after she claims that she didn’t have an orgasm during their sexual encounter, even though he said he “rode” her “like a Triple Crown jockey.”

“I’m telling you, Sean, I felt violated. The only other time I felt remotely this powerless was back in the early ’90s, when some chick slipped her finger up my butt with no warning.”

– From Megan O’Hara (Season 1, Episode 6): Christian explaining his reaction to someone spray-painting an insult on his car and his boat.

“I don’t want her here, Sean. She’s a troublemaker and her shoes are cheap.”

– From Cara Fitzgerald (Season 1, Episode 8): Christian trying to get rid of Grace Santiago (Valerie Cruz) after the truth comes out about Grace and Christian – and Grace and Sean.

“My face has been tucked in more times than a bedsheet at the Holiday Inn.”

– From Joan Rivers (Season 2, Episode 16): Joan Rivers, as herself, having a consult with Sean and Christian in the episode’s opening scene and asking them to reverse all of her previous cosmetic surgeries.

“Beauty is a curse on the world. It keeps us from seeing who the real monsters are.”

– From Sean McNamara (Season 2, Episode 15): The Carver explaining his philosophical viewpoint directly to Sean, inside Sean’s bathroom.

Nip-Tuck-S2E15

“You know, I’ve had thousands of people sit across this desk from me, begging me to turn them from a caterpillar into a butterfly. The only one I’ve ever met who actually has a real chance of doing that is you.”

– From Hiro Yoshimura (Season 6, Episode 19): Christian telling Sean about his feelings for his pal and partner, just before dropping the news of what he plans to do with their partnership.

7 Comments

  1. Only a bunch of pathetic losers would watch a shallow program like this. Folks, really…….you need to get a life…..

    • You do realize that this isn’t a reality show, don’t you? People don’t watch this show because they identify with it, but for the entertainment value of the hilariously abhorrent & bizarre nutcases portrayed on it. No one on the show condones or glorifies the behavior of the characters on it, quite the…oh, wait– have you ever seen it? Because there are so many shows on TV that I find totally repellant, I obviously never watch them, much less read & comment on them right along with all the other “pathetic losers” who do, unless of course…

    • You do realize that this isn’t a reality show, don’t you? People don’t watch this show because they identify with it, but for the entertainment value of the hilariously abhorrent & bizarre nutcases portrayed on it. No one on the show condones or glorifies the behavior of the characters on it, quite the…oh, wait– have you ever seen it? Because there are so many shows on TV that I find totally repellant, I would obviously never watch them, much less read & comment on them right along with all the other “pathetic losers” who do, unless of course…

    • You do realize that this isn’t a reality show, don’t you? People don’t watch this show because they identify with it, but for the entertainment value of the hilariously abhorrent & bizarre nutcases portrayed on it. No one on the show condones or glorifies the behavior of the characters on it, quite the…oh, wait– have you ever seen it? Because there are so many shows on TV that I find totally repellant, I would obviously never watch them, much less read about & comment on them right along with all the other “pathetic losers” who do, unless of course…

  2. Everyone needs to watch Nip/Tuck. I’m completely obsessed. I binge watch it several times a year since season 1! Great article, so many good points.

  3. Hey Eric – would you consider a guest spot on our podcast to talk Nip/Tuck? It’s one of the few shows that my co-host and I can agree with discussing – when it comes to TV. SOA being the first. All about FX. Please consider. Our show is SHOOTING FromThe LIP — Twitter @TheShootingLip

    thanks!

    Kevin

Comments are closed.