Nip/Tuck is a show that constantly reinvents itself. Rather than following its name however and going for little tweaks here and there, the show routinely undergoes total and complete makeovers. Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) are always at the heart of the tales, and they in fact change very little, but everything else shifts like buildings during an earthquake. For a couple of seasons the show is about work and family, then it is about a serial killer, then family, now it is about our two doctors moving to Los Angeles from Miami.
McNamara/Troy had been a hugely successful practice in Miami, but the beginning of this season finds our doctors unable to get any clients to grace their new digs. In a town that is all about name recognition, McNamara and Troy are two unknowns. After an unsuccessful attempt to troll for clients at a bar (it seems that every attractive woman in the city already has a plastic surgeon of choice), they come across Fiona McNeill (Lauren Hutton), publicist to the stars. Left with little choice, the boys hire Fiona to help them out and the season gets under way in earnest. From the bar scene through at least the end of the second episode, Nip/Tuck whips out one Hollywood stereotype after another.
The first episode focuses on the addictive nature of power via Craig Bierko's portrayal of Bob Easton, an industry heavyweight who can only lower his stress level with frequent trips to his dominatrix, Mistress Dark Pain (Tia Carrere). It focuses on the inability of middle-aged actresses that look middle-aged to get good roles using Daphne Zuniga as Carly Summers as their prime example. And, the season could not be complete unless Sean and Christian found themselves working on a television show, so the boys quickly end up working with Freddy Prune (an over the top Oliver Platt) who is the show runner for Hearts 'n Scalpels, a plastic surgery-based drama. It almost goes without saying that the star of the show, Aidan Stone (Bradley Cooper) is a narcissistic, shallow, prima donna.
Despite its heavy use of stereotypes, Nip/Tuck's look inside Hollywood is exceedingly entertaining to watch. They are by no means breaking new ground, but the guest stars on the show are all fantastic and help bring new life to the fifth season. Particularly good in the premiere is Bradley Cooper, whose scenery chewing portrayal of Stone is hysterically funny from beginning to end, and his character on Hearts 'n Scalpels is Troy, but ratcheted up a few notches.
By far the biggest problem with the show are the two characters it centers on, Christian Troy and Sean McNamara. Despite four full seasons of these two men acting out their every desire, competing for women repeatedly, going around like immature buffoons, and having to deal with the repercussions of these actions, they do not seem to have changed. The backdrop may be different for the show this season, but any viewer that turned the series off during its first season would need a scant 30 seconds to catch up on what has happened since. The two men, Troy in particular, are incredibly self-destructive and have failed to learn anything from their past trials and tribulations. Oddly though, the show has the two men discuss their past problems, recognize that they are acting similarly to the way they have in the past, and then just continue down the same road.
Interviews with the cast and crew promise that the show will have the rest of the regulars venturing out to Los Angeles to see Christian and Sean. In the second episode Julia, Sean's ex-wife, does in fact make a visit in order to tell the boys about her new relationship. The show feels forced at this point, like when the star of a show goes to visit a spin-off. The series may have been wiser to jettison the rest of the regulars if everyone's trip to L.A. is going to be done in the same manner, but maybe the other visits will be fit in to the series in a more natural way.
Nip/Tuck is high gloss, fast paced, and entertaining to watch. But, much like the work McNamara/Troy does on its patients, it is never more than skin deep. Yes, there are moments when something deeper is touched, but much like the fat removed from around the middle of an overweight character, the result of any deep exploration is only ever a surface improvement. There is something to be said, however, for taking an hour every week to stare at something beautiful, even if it has little depth.
Nip/Tuck airs Tuesdsay nights at 10pm on FX.