Thursday, September 07, 2006

"Christian, come in here and check out my balls": Nip/Tuck, season 4 premiere

I've never been a fan of Nip/Tuck, in my opinion the weakest show in FX's stable, but somehow I've managed to keep myself relatively up-to-date with the series, dropping in for the occasional episode if only to reaffirm my distaste for the ridiculous plotting, scattershot casting and yawnsome shock tactics that creator Ryan Murphy employs so very frequently. After the derivative Carver storyline that led exhausted viewers through an endless maze of red herrings in the third season, I figured I would forget the show for good. But, with Murphy's promises of a less absurd, Carver-free fourth season, I found myself dutifully watching Tuesday's premiere.

First of all, can this show go five minutes without a guest star? Larry Hagman demanding bigger testicles is one thing (honestly, it's those raging eyebrows of his that need work). Kathleen Turner as a throaty phone-sex operator, I can tolerate. But by the time Brooke Shields appeared as Christian's icy psychiatrist, my eyes could simply roll no further. As much as I understood the 'hilarious' irony of Shields playing a shrink, it all felt like an extremely low-rent version of The Sopranos's psych scenes, minus the incisive dialogue and plus some happy-go-lucky sodomy. The weakness of Shields' character was compounded by having she and Christian resolve their tepid sexual tension within about half an hour. Through the rushed exposition of these scenes, Murphy (who wrote and directed the episode) seems to be attempting to probe deeper into Christian's character by letting us know that he has intimacy issues and might be in love with his partner Sean. Um, obvious alert!

It says something that Christian's possible infatuation with Sean might happen to be the best plotline Murphy can rustle up this season. Unless you get kicks out of gross-out surgery scenes, Julian McMahon and Dylan Walsh remain the only real reason to watch the show. They're comfortable in their characters (early on in the series, Walsh had a whiny similarity to Michael C. Hall of Six Feet Under that he has now shed) and they have good chemistry together, but their charm is crushed under the weight of the bizarre plot curveballs their characters constantly suffer through. Already I read rumors of Joely Richardson (whose performance is becoming increasibly one-note with every tragedy dumped on her wretched character) exiting the series and the villanous drug dealer of season 1 returning with a vengeance. Couple that with Sanaa Lathan's minxy femme fatale (Wow! Never seen one of them before!), the one-in-a-million congential birth defect of Sean's new son and whatever troubled Matt (curiously absent from this episode) can cook up, and we're in for another crazily controversial/brain-rendingly dull ride. Judging on what I saw last night, I don't think I'll be able to keep up.


Todd VanDerWerff said...

Somewhere in the comments of the article I wrote about Rescue Me at House Next Door is an interesting defense of the show from Aaron Johnston, who writes about TV for Time Out New York. He acknowledges all of its flaws but says that, like Rescue Me, it's very honest about just how big of bastards men can be. Admittedly, it's doing that in a COMPLETELY different milieu, but his comments were enough to make me want to check out the show when it re-airs.

I think you hit all of what's just so wrong with this show solidly on the head. It had a fun, soapy first season and has now fallen into the pit of trying to top itself and other cable dramas.

David Sims said...

That's not a bad point--no doubt, Nip/Tuck has no problem acknowledging how majorly misogynistic the men (particularly Christian) are. But wheras Rescue Me has plenty of other selling points (the way it deals with 9/11, its humor, its much larger and more varied ensemble), Nip/Tuck's exposure of image-obsessed America is hardly original, and its cast is much smaller, so there's simply less to cut to, if you know what I mean.