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Warner Home Video presents
"Beauty is a curse on the world. It keeps us from seeing who the real monsters are."
DVD ReviewSeason One of Nip/Tuck, the FX cable network's lurid drama about a pair of South Florida plastic surgeons, always entertained, but it's beauty was only skin-deep. As much as I enjoyed watching partners Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) making others beautiful while reveling in their own sordid affairs (including sex addiction, deals with a dangerous drug lord, and illegal operations on a prized show poodle, to name but a few), I always had trouble connecting to the characters. It wasn't just because, by and large, they're despicable people (particularly Christian, who not only lusts after best friend Sean's wife, but every other woman that crosses his path, including a few patients). It's just that there wasn't much depth to their depravity. All the makings of a great show where there—a stellar cast, great production design, a killer premise, and sharp dialogue—but it always felt a little like watching video of a surgical procedure: bloody, but captivating, and certainly not for the squeamish.
Still, the show really improved as the fairly short Season One progressed, and by the start of Season Two, the balance has shifted. While the outlandish plots remain (Nip/Tuck has never met a bait and switch storyline it didn't love), the surgical procedures of the week and the twists and turns of the doctors' personal lives inform the characters, rather than use them as props. And though I still can't claim to like Christian or Sean as people, I can empathize with them, recognize their strengths as well as their flaw—in short, they're no longer just beautiful people, but actual people, and a hell of a lot more interesting as a result.
As always, though the show focuses on Sean and his family as much as it does on Christian's travails with the fairer sex (last season ended with his estranged girlfriend giving birth to a baby she insisted was his, until it came out African-American), it's really about the bond between the surgeons. Friends since college, the two compliment each other perfectly, for better or worse—Sean's wound so tight he can't even enjoy the fact that he's at the top of his field (resulting, during the first few episodes, in a potentially devastating psychological condition that causes his hands to twitch), and Christian, despite his status as a new daddy, can barely keep his baser instincts under control, but their partnership and friendship helps keep both sane.
And they're certainly going to need each other this year, as they'll face challenges that will make last season's devious drug trafficker look like a two-bit hoodlum. Sean is fighting the battle on the home front. His wife, Julia (Joely Richardson, emotionally naked) feels the spark has gone out of their marriage, and hasn't gotten over his affair last season. Her feelings of doubt over having abandoned her own medical career to be a mother are compounded when her own mom (Vanessa Redgrave, Richardson's real-life mother), a successful author and child psychologist, arrives in town to screw with her daughter's emotions. Seeking direction, Julia hires Ava Moore (Famke Janssen), as a "life coach." Ava's real gift is her ability to see through people's illusions and self-delusions, and she's a troublemaker throughout the season.
Sean and Julia's son Matt (John Hensley) doesn't make his parents' lives any easier. First, he is questioned by police over his role in a car accident last season that left a girl partially disfigured, then he gets involved with Ava, though she's more fulfilling his fantasies than breaking them down, if you see my meaning. This creates some problems for Ava's son Adrian (Seth Gabel), who seems very attached to his mommy. (If you were wondering if there's a line Nip/Tuck won't cross, it isn't incest, not by a long shot).
Christian's problems, meanwhile, are all about the ladies. It's not just Gina (Jessalyn Gilsig), the mother of the baby Christian decides to raise as his own, despite its skin color, though she's enough of a handful, considering she's a sex addict and a narcissist (though you'd think that would make her Dr. Troy's ideal woman). He's also still in love with Julia, and though he doesn't want to betray Sean, Julia reveals a secret from their past that makes things all the more difficult. Then there's Kimber (Kelly Carlson), the drug-addled former porn star Christian dated last year. She pops up clean and sober, and asks Christian to make a mold of her private parts to be turned into a "real doll" sex toy (though Kimber has her eye on another plastic surgeon for much of the season).
On top of all the character drama, the doctors still have to see patients, and, like the corpse of the week on Six Feet Under, Christian and Sean have to try to help both the people in pain and those that just want to be pretty. Sometimes these plots provide moments of comic relief (the bald man who wants hair transplants... pubic hair transplants); others are more serious, even touching, side stories. In Manya Mabika, for example, a woman who was the victim of female castration comes to McNamara/Troy to see if they can reshape her sex organs. When Christian agrees, to give them a test run, as it were, it's not crass or exploitative, but deeply emotional.
The season builds steam throughout, resulting in a finale that's outlandishly good, thanks in no small part to the talents of Famke Janssen, who's playing one of the most fascinatingly complex characters I've had the pleasure to watch on television. Her exit from the series is certainly memorable, but the real kicker is the payoff to another season-long arc—a psychopath named The Carver has been mutilating attractive women, as he believes beauty is a scourge on society. As a result, he's not too fond of our good doctors. The "who is The Carver?" plot results in some pretty intense moments, but nothing prepared me for what goes down in episode 16 (the year-long wait for Season Three didn't help).
Season standouts: Agatha Ripp, in which the doctors treat a woman suffering from wounds that appear to be stigmata; Rose and Raven Rosenberg, in which surgery on conjoined twins helps the doctors mend a rift in their partnership; and Julia McNamara, in which Julia goes under the knife after an accident and dreams of what her life would be like if she'd married Christian instead of Sean.
Though Nip/Tuck is still outlandish and, plot wise anyway, kind of ludicrous, Season Two stands out. Perhaps the most daring series on television, the show isn't afraid to put its characters through hell and allow them to be the kind of people that deserve to go there. That we actually care about them despite that... all the better.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Presented in anamorphic widescreen, Nip/Tuck once again appears surgically enhanced on DVD; the image quality outstrips what I saw even on satellite broadcasts. Colors are strong and solid, and black level and shadow detail bring depth to the picture. I noticed no graininess to speak of and no noticeable instances of artifacting in the episodes I sampled.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: As a dialogue-based drama, Nip/Tuck doesn't require much in the way of flashy audio or surround effects. The 2.0 mix found here is good enough—dialogue comes across crystal clear and the score and sound effects are mixed nicely into the front mains and surrounds.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 96 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
19 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: Book Gatefold
Extras Review: At first glance, there's not much in the way of bonus material included with Nip/Tuck: The Complete Second Season. The back of the box lists only a featurette and some deleted scenes. And while the former, Recurring Pain: Three Women and Their Man, an eight-minute analysis of the respective relationships between Kimber, Gina, and Mrs. Grubman and Christian, is fairly fluffy, the latter is far more than a few minutes of cut footage.
As with the first season release, there are cut scenes for the majority of the episodes, 10 out of 16. All told, the 19 scenes—some that extend a storyline, others that offer some nice character moments—run 39m:18s. That's nearly an entire episode worth of deleted footage, and most of it is worthwhile. Scenes are presented in a fairly rough format with time codes on the top and bottom of the screen, but are certainly watchable. Footage is included for Manya Mabika (two scenes) on Disc 1; Joel Gideon (three scenes) and Bobbi Broderick (one scene) on Disc 2; Naomi Barnes (two scenes) and Agatha Ripp (three scenes) on Disc 3; Kimber Henry (one scene) and Natasha Charles (three scenes) on Disc 4; Trudy Nye (one scene) and Sean McNamara (two scenes) on Disc 5; and Joan Rivers (one scene) on Disc 6.
Other than that, though, there's not much to see (not even a promo for Season Three, which starts airing Sept. 20). The series probably didn't need to be spread across six discs, then, but the slim packaging is nice, along the lines of what Warner Bros. has used for recent seasons of Gilmore Girls, The O.C., and The West Wing. I like the shiny foil box, too, even if it is prone to fingerprints, and who can look at that shot of Julian McMahon and disagree with his current status as a possible replacement for Pierce Brosnan's James Bond?
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsIt's no surprise that Nip/Tuck's second season sets a benchmark for envelope pushing content on standard cable TV (the show would be right at home on HBO). What a welcome revelation that the characters have depth and humanity to match the stylized sheen of sex and surgery. Season Two won the Golden Globe for dramatic television, and is a must-own on DVD.
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