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Nip/Tuck - Season 3 review

Nip/Tuck, season 3

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

BOUNDARY-pushing TV, by its very nature, walks a fine line between success and failure. That line became increasingly blurred during the third season of plastic surgery drama, Nip/Tuck.

Having ended on such a high with the jaw-dropping season two cliffhanger, the show appeared to struggle from the outset to maintain its high standards.

The cliffhanger in question found Christian Troy (Julian McMahon), one of the show’s two main stars, apparently at the mercy of serial rapist, The Carver.

Entering season three, it emerged that Christian had been attacked but only after the producers had played a mean trick – by opening with a dream sequence chronicling Christian’s funeral.

It is a ploy the show resorted to on several occasions and which felt cheaper and less satisfactory the more it was employed.

That’s not to say that Season 3 was a failure, just that it disappointed more than it impressed.

Needless to say, the first half of the season was taken up with how Christian came to terms with his attack, forcing his partner and best friend, Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh), to take on a new partner at the practice in the form of Quentin Costa (Bruno Campos).

There were also plot developments for Sean’s son, Matt (John Hensley), as he struggled to conquer his own demons following the revelation that Ava Moore (Famke Janssen) was a transexual.

And for his wife, Julia (Joely Richardson), as she attempts to rebuild her life following her separation from Sean.

These various story arcs provided the impetus for some very strong episodes, especially when set against the context of some of the medical cases the doctors were covering.

Hence, episodes such as Momma Boone, which found Sean having to separate an obese woman from a sofa, and Rhea Reynolds, which finds an elderly woman wanting surgery to make her look younger in order to jog her Alzheimer-stricken husband’s memory, furthered the show’s capacity for handling potentially bad taste issues in sensitive and often poignant fashion.

The problems began when the show searched for ways of changing the formula, such as having Sean leave the practice in order to find fulfilment in life by working for the Witness Protection Programme.

Needless to say, the experiment was shortlived, given that Sean fell for his first patient (Anne Heche) and adopted them as a family despite the fact they were wanted by the Mafia. The subsequent intrigue provided one of the least interesting story arcs in Nip/Tuck history.

Later episodes also seemed to be stretching themselves in terms of pushing the boundaries.

Sal Perri, for instance, found Sean, Julia and Christian at the centre of a plane crash in which Julia’s mother (Vanessa Redgrave) may have perished. But in attempting to be shocking, it frequently became distasteful and seemed a little too desperate to garner notoriety.

Disappointing, too, was the resolution of the Carver story, which came back with a vengeance during the latter episodes.

Having delivered its fair share of twists throughout the series, the eventual unmasking of the rapist proved somewhat disappointing, while the ‘twists’ that followed seemed ill-conceived.

For the first time in memory, Nip/Tuck provided plenty to pick apart and had lost its ability to genuinely surprise or shock for the right reasons.

What’s more, the final episode, Quentin Costa, attempted to stretch nerves by having two torture scenes unfold simultaneously, only to ‘bottle’ out of becoming too graphic.

With these criticisms in mind, the series remained compulsive viewing in spite of its flaws for the way in which it continued to exist in such a moral grey zone.

It is, after all, an adult show that always strives to achieve something a little bit different. It’s just that past success has made recent failures all the more glaring.

It seems that the show could do with a little plastic surgery of its own in the writing department to restore it to the blemish free creation that it was.