Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Today sees the DVD release of "Nip/Tuck Season 5, Part 1". With the second half of the season premiering next week on FX, the important question is... what happened? I've defended this show often enough in the past. Of course it's trashy, but it's invigorating to see so many fascinating actors explore the notion of our society's obsession with vanity. Part of the charm of the series lies in how it hearkens back to the eighties glam-trash melodramas represented by shows like Dallas or Dynasty that one rarely gets a chance to relish anymore. But this season the show may have reached its nadir in the sleaze department, and so far, it sure hasn't offered the rewards it has in the past. This season's story arc starts promisingly, with Christian (Julian McMahon) and Sean (Dylan Walsh) moving out to L.A. to reopen their practice. Womanizing Christian is now saddled with a son that turned out to not even be his. And Sean, recently estranged from his family, is ready to throw himself into his work, with L.A.'s vain denizens presumably offering ample opportunity to do so. Business is slow at first, until they decide to consult on the show-within-a-show, Hearts and Scalpels. While Christian is the one expecting stardom, it is actually Sean who fares well after a brief appearance on the show. Plenty of the typical "Hollywood" plot points are generated by this turn of events, and all take the low road in getting one's attention. Start with the power player (Craig Bierko) who comes in for some surgery, and has to sneak his paid dominatrix (Tia Carrere) into Recovery to help him relieve stress. Or see Rosie O'Donnell return as last season's lottery winner, Dawn Budge, and hook up with unknowingly gay producer Freddy Prune (oliver Platt) long enough to kick him out of the closet. Contrivances abound, like the revelation that Sean's new agent, Colleen (Sharon Gless), is really a stalking fan. Gone are the days when one could at least revel in the show's distinctive brand of snarkiness, where at least the pettiness of egomaniacs like Christian was used to tell cautionary morality tales with at least a modicum of character exploration. But that's not the half of it. Colleen's day job? It's stuffing teddy bears at a mall, so when she snaps, guess how she styles her distinctive form of serial killing? Think that's the lowest point in the series? You'd be close, but nothing in the entire series hits as rock bottom as Sean's discovery that his new girlfriend, Hearts and Scalpels costar, Kate (Paula Marshall) has a sickening scatological compulsion. Whereas before the series once lured such intriguing guest stars as Catherine Deneuve (Belle de Jour), Larry Hagman (Dallas), Famke Janssen (X-Men), Vanessa Redgrave (Julia), Brooke Shields (Pretty Baby), and Kathleen Turner (The War of the Roses), this year we have Jennifer Coolidge (American Pie), Donna Mills (Knots Landing), and Portia de Rossi (Ally McBeal). Yes, Ellen's wife, playing what amounts to a sterotype of herself. See, one day, Sean's ex-wife Julia (Joely Richardson) simply decides to become a lesbian and set up house with de Rossi's Olivia Lord. Lord's petulant daughter Eden (AnnaLynne McCord), who has honed her skill at manipulating mom feels threatened by Julia. So she goes all "fatal attraction" on Sean, Julia, and their daughter Annie. Julia fares the worst, as usual, tortured by Eden's slow mercury poisoning of her food. After a while, it's easy to see the writer's gears turning as they try to top the last "C'mon!" moment with an even bigger "Holy s--t" one, and one becomes more than a little inured to it all. Think twice before subjecting yourself to this DVD set.