There's a key scene in the pilot episode of "Nip/Tuck" in which a vain, gorgeous blonde model asks (the equally vain and gorgeous) Dr. Troy what he thinks she needs surgery-wise to be a "10."
So Troy pulls out a marker and proceeds to bluntly detail every one of her flaws from head to foot on her naked body -- what he would lift, or change, remove, or cut. He then turns her marked-up self toward the mirror to confront what she had thought was so perfect only moments before. It's a shattering scene.
Which is why "Nip/Tuck" is so good. The show is a wonderful paradox because it's all about facades -- while presenting a gorgeous facade itself. But there's always something else beneath the surface. It's everything a cable drama should be -- and everything network TV these days pretty much can't be. It's brutal (the surgeries are not for the weak of stomach and are often startlingly real), witty (the dialogue is quick, biting, and bracing), complex, and sexy as anything to boot.
The show (especially on DVD) looks fantastic, with beautiful production values, great music, film-quality cinematography, and superb acting. It's slick and glossy and shiny and gorgeous -- and then it promptly looks underneath at all the insecurity and ugliness. All these people want perfection, but let's face it, how often do we get it?
The two doctors are the backbone of the show, and the actors who bring them to life are incredible. Dylan Walsh is wonderful -- I'd never been a fan of his before, but his boy-scout boyishness is used perfectly in this, and his acting chops blew me away. The guy can act.
And Julian McMahon is a revelation as Troy -- it's the role of a lifetime, and McMahon seems to visibly revel in his character's scheming, conniving, smugness, and superficiality -- he's almost a sociopath, and McMahon brings something almost reptilian and flat to his eyes in some scenes. And then just when you least expect it, he'll give you a glimpse of something almost heroic underneath. The guy is simply not easily defined, as conflicted and dangerous as he is beautiful.
The women of the show are just as good, especially Joely Richardson, who is fantastic and almost Shakespearan as Walsh's bitter, conflicted wife. I love Roma Downey as the smart and streetwise nurse of the practice, as well as Julie Warner, who is very good in a lovely and key role as a cancer survivor.
The entire first season of "Nip/Tuck" is excellent and worth seeing, and while there are several enjoyable standalone episodes, the season-long arc of this show is particularly strong, with every character facing, defeating, or falling before some kind of inner demon before the end.
WARNING: The show is definitely adult, and potentially shocking for many. The surgeries are often graphically depicted, as are many sexual scenarios (most involving a naked or semi-naked McMahon, not that I'm complaining, LOL).
While made for F/X, the show is really best viewed along the same lines as an HBO or Showtime show -- the levels of violence and nudity are pretty similar. (But in the show's defense, it's very creative about this stuff, and everything often has a deeper meaning -- the sex is hysterically funny, or revealing, or poignant, depending on the episode.)
So if you're open to something exhilarating and new -- a medical drama unlike anything else out there -- "Nip/Tuck" is rewarding and truly a don't-miss. Especially with so much mediocrity on TV right now.
(Note: I removed one star because for some inexplicable reason this DVD set doesn't boast a single commentary -- unthinkable for a show as deep and multifaceted as this one. I hope they correct this in Season 2 -- a real shame.)