Nip/Tuck is Growing Up

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Christian and Sean are poor now. It would be ridiculous for Nip/Tuck, returning tonight, to ignore the Ice-9 freeze the economy is in, so business at McNamara/Troy is down. The only problem is, without the cars and the girls, Nip/Tuck is forced to focus on its characters, and it wants to say something meaningful. Way to suck the fun out of a show that used to define "guilty pleasure," guys.

When we last saw Christian and Sean, Christian was dying of breast cancer and Sean was dating Teddy, who was played by Katee Sackhoff but now looks a lot like Rose McGowan. (Sackhoff was unavailable after booking a pilot.) Christian married Liz, because he only had six months left and she was good with Wilbur, but he thought that he married out of love. That misconception was quickly corrected when Christian discovered that his doctor had given him the wrong prognosis, due to a mixed-up lab test. He wasn't actually dying.

Now, Liz and Christian are divorcing, and like so much else in this final season, it feels like a metaphor for death. (There are also actual deaths serving as metaphors for death. Or something like that.) Tonight's premiere opens with a voiceover that chronicles the rise and fall of the plastic surgery industry; the episode uses a fake-documentary format when it's convenient, and abandons it when it's not. Sean is running out of money and worried about everything, concerns he alleviates with Oxycontin. Matt has essentially failed out of school, and now harbors ambitions of becoming a mime. (Seriously.) This show used to have a laissez-faire attitude about its characters' shocking indiscretions. Now it seems to want the audience to care deeply about the protagonists, and that's where they run into trouble.

Nip/Tuck's central theme has always and rather obviously been to depict the fleeting superficiality of beauty -- something about it not going that deep -- and the characters who populate this show, from the criminals to the patients, are all ugly people. The fun of Nip/Tuck used to be watching these monsters -- who could not generate one ounce of empathy between them and didn't care -- and their tendencies to interfere with each other's solipsistic desires. Now, Christian and Sean seem headed toward a reckoning, with Sean's drug addiction and Christian's one-sided rivalry with Mike (Mario Lopez), the younger, better version of himself. It's not as fun to watch when the consequences become lessons.

It would probably be irresponsible for Christian and Sean to leave the air without some kind of dramatic change. They have, after all, battled white supremacists, drug dealers, and serial killers. (Not to mention the little stuff like divorce, illegitimate children, infidelity, and Kimber.) But judging from the first two episodes, their arrival into some kind of chastened and conciliatory maturity won't be that fun for them. This is perhaps the way it should be in real life, but Nip/Tuck has never resembled that, and it's too late to start now.

Nip/Tuck premieres tonight at 10 pm on FX.

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