Only on “Nip/Tuck” can a character utter a line like “Dildo sales are down. It’s the goddamn economy,” and make it sound a perfectly reasonable thing to say. There are aspects I will miss about “Nip/Tuck,” and one of them is its ability to take the most outlandishly offensive situation and make it seem relatively normal, at least within the context of the show. But all good and bad things must come to an end, and “Nip/Tuck,” from Season Three onwards, was equal parts of both. The Sixth Season aired in two parts (with a month break in the middle), which at the time were marketed as Seasons Six and Seven. There is no Season Seven, but there is a 19-episode sixth season, and all those episodes are collected in this set. Through watching this block, however, it certainly seems like two different seasons. Confused? Annoyed? Allow me to elaborate and pontificate.
The first ten episodes are all but unwatchable in their awfulness. Not merely content to disturb viewers, these episodes largely depress as well, although it seems unlikely that was the goal. The flaccid economy, and its effect on the plastic surgery business, is stressed in the first episode, but what does it say about a show when such a topic is one of the bright spots? Sean (Dylan Walsh) is still dating anesthesiologist Teddy Rowe, who used to be played by Katee Sackhoff, but now resides in the body of Rose McGowan, which is a true “what the fuck?” soap opera switch, given that it’s hard to think of two actresses that are any less alike in both their method and appearance. Teddy slowly begins revealing her true, black widow colors as the narrative progresses, and on the camping trip from hell, Teddy’s shit hits the fan and splatters all over the place.
Meanwhile, Christian (Julian McMahon), who is not dying of cancer after all, must contend with a seriously pissed off Liz (Roma Maffia), since now that he’s not dying he doesn’t want to stay married to her. Liz’s reaction is understandable, but that doesn’t make her character arc any more palatable, since Liz is the only person on the show we’ve come to believe is truly decent. Kimber (Kelly Carlson) begins dating Dr. Mike Hamoui (Mario Lopez), a development nobody was asking to see, and if ever you wanted to see Lopez dressed in a corset, garter belt, and stockings, well, now’s your chance. Stills from the episode in which Christian talks him into this get-up are bound to haunt Lopez for the rest of his life, which amuses me to no end. Maybe he can put the scene on his reel should the “Rocky Horror” remake ever get off the ground?
Matt (John Hensley) has taken up miming, only to discover there’s more money to be found in robbing convenience stores in whiteface. As per usual with Matt, things go south with his plans, but never as far as here, where he ends up going to prison, and the episode “Alexis Stone II” is surely one of the most self-loathing episodes of any TV series, ever. And Julia (Joely Richardson)? Well, I think she’s in there somewhere, but as has been par for the course in recent times, Richardson’s mind is obviously anywhere but on her character. The patient storylines, too, are revolting. Characters like The Enigma, Jenny Juggs, and Lola Wlodkowski are amongst the most tasteless the show has ever showcased (which is saying something), and the aforementioned Alexis Stone, who manages a two-episode arc, simply gives transgendered people a bad name. It’s a credit to the series that they didn’t have her whip out a knife and slit Christian’s throat at the end of her tale. These ten episodes are some of the worst the show has ever unleashed, and as tough as it was watching them on broadcast, it was twice as tough sitting through them a second time on DVD. Even the most die-hard fans of the show surely knew that it was time to close up shop when these aired last year.
And one must wonder how many viewers the show lost in that block. How many people failed to come back to the show in January for the final nine episodes? I’m willing to bet plenty, which is a shame because, believe it or not, after years of excess, “Nip/Tuck” managed to deliver a nicely restrained, oftentimes poignant batch of episodes to close out the series. The story picks up a few months after the first ten in the set, and Sean and Christian are going to pick up a lifetime achievement award. Only after they receive the award does Sean discover that Christian bought it via a hefty donation, at which point Sean goes ballistic. And from there, the season peels one layer of the onion away after the next, dissecting McNamara and Troy’s friendship and partnership, all while providing endings for every other character on the show as well (most are surprisingly happy, some a little warped, and in one case we lose a character altogether).
One excellent episode, “Dr. Griffin,” is set almost entirely in a psychiatrist’s office, with Sean and Christian unloading their grievances on one another. Even the patient stories have a great deal of heft to them, and take viewers back to a time when the show was as much about the surgeries as it was the main characters. And then there’s fan favorite villainess Ava Moore (Famke Janssen), who returns to wreak some havoc one last time, for the final two episodes of the series.
I once wrote that when “Nip/Tuck” ended, I wanted to have to “scrape my jaw up off the floor and make an appointment for some reconstructive surgery.” I can’t honestly say that happens here, but I wrote that way back when this show and I were still doing a lovely little dance together week in and out. That dance ended some time ago, and yet I was pretty bowled over by the mature series of notes the show went out on. I think that’s how it needed to be, given that it’s been mercilessly and vacuously titillating viewers for far too long now. Given how controversial many series finales are these days, perhaps the biggest surprise “Nip/Tuck” could’ve given us is a finale that wasn’t controversial at all. Well, mostly not. There is that one last thing with Ava and Matt that might just make your blood boil, but I thought it was just right.
The three stars given to this set are merely an average: Two stars for the first ten episodes, and four stars for the last nine. I don’t know exactly how to tell people to avoid one half of a season box set, whilst highly recommending its second half. You’ll have to figure the rest out on your own.
Special Features: There’s just one measly featurette entitled “Tell Me What You Don’t Like About Yourself: The Psychology Behind Plastic Surgery,” which is just as throwaway as it sounds. No celebration for the end of the show, no commentaries, no deleted scenes, no nothing.