Make me beautiful.
A perfect soul
A perfect mind
A perfect face
A perfect lie.
This write-up will spoil you rotten if you don't know anything about the show but intend to start watching its reruns.
Nip/Tuck is a television show that airs on the F/X Network on Tuesdays at 10:00 PM EST centered around the practice of McNamara/Troy, the partnership of friends-since-college Dr. Sean McNamara and Dr. Christian Troy. Dr. McNamara and Dr. Troy are plastic surgeons who believe that physical perfection is not only readily attainable but that they are, in fact, the ones who are going to provide it for their patients. According to the show, McNamara/Troy is the biggest plastic surgery practice in Miami, which, if you've ever seen the silicone that abounds in Miami, is saying a lot. The doctors perform all sorts of surgeries but, as you might have guessed, breast augmentation represents a large portion (70%) of their business.
Behind this veil of perfection, however, are simmering resentments and unresolved conflicts between the doctors in their personal lives. The show is roundly criticized by groups of bored housewives who have nothing better to do with their existences than whine about a television show that comes on when most kids are in bed and asleep because of its graphic depictions of actual medical procedures and, of course, its explicit sexuality. At times, however, the sex and the surgeries become confused in their portrayal; if you've ever "been flipping through the channels" late at night and you "just happened" to land on Skinemax After Dark and you "only watched it because you were bored," then you'll probably know a little bit about the conventions of softcore pornography. The surgeries often take the place of the sex act in the way they are visualized; the music, the pacing, the camera angles, the frequent dissolution of all dialogue and foreground noise until the end of the procedure -- all of this makes a comment about the type of work the doctors do and what it actually means in the long-run, both for their patients and (especially) the way in which they subconsciously view their own work.
Despite the alleged amorality of the show, however, I find that essentially every episode of Nip/Tuck is predicated on some sort of moral lesson. Most frequently, an episode's main procedure will somehow mirror the problem being faced by the characters in that episode. The outcome of the surgery is therefore either a predictor of how the problem will be resolved or a warning as to how the problem ought not to be resolved. For example, in the second season, McNamara/Troy is on the verge of splitting up following a very nasty dispute between the two partners (which I will detail below). However, the doctors were committed to assist in a pro bono separation of twins joined at the forehead. The twins said they would prefer to stay together since it's the only thing they've ever known and they are afraid of the unknown. One of the twins, however, has developed cancer and it is imperative for the health of the other that they be separated. While performing the surgery, the twins are separated, but the one Dr. Troy is working on (the cancer-free twin) dies on the table. The remaining twin begins to go, but Dr. McNamara (the instigator of the separation) is vehement that she can survive on her own and vigorously restores her blood pressure, stabilizing her and completing the surgery. Unfortunately, she is in a precarious coma state and it is then revealed that the twins had made living wills stating that if one died, the other would not like to be alive. The girls' mother asks if Dr. McNamara and Dr. Troy could reattach their bodies as they would have wanted it that way. They agree and Dr. McNamara learns an important lesson about partnership and separation: united they stand, divided they fall.
The creator of the show, Ryan Murphy, has stated that Nip/Tuck is essentially "a love story between two heterosexual men." That is, there's no sexual component between the doctors but they will always ultimately choose each other over whatever it is that threatens to tear them apart and that is what the audience will want. The doctors are two halves of the same person: Dr. McNamara is the reserved, intellectual Apollonian figure while Dr. Troy is the extroverted, sensual Dionysian figure. Although Dr. McNamara is acknowledged as the superior surgeon, he could not effectively function without Dr. Troy; they have, as Dr. Troy put it, a symbiotic relationship that both men require to survive.
As you'll notice, this list does not contain every character on the show. Writing details about every single character on there would be far too time consuming and frankly boring for the reader, so I won't go there. With the exception of the Carver, all of the characters listed below have been on the show since the first season.
Dr. Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh): Dr. McNamara is your everyday family man with a yearly net worth of $1.4 Million. He met his partner, Dr. Christian Troy, as well as his wife, Julia, in medical school in the 1980s. Dr. McNamara defines himself in terms of his work and how ably he provides for his family, which includes himself, Julia, and their two children Matt and Annie. However, Dr. McNamara is at his core fundamentally unhappy with who he is; he feels he was meant for a higher, nobler cause than performing liposuctions and facelifts. However, because he is a professional man with a family to support, he can't let this internal emotional turmoil bubble over to the surface as it would damage his façade of strength and threaten his role as a provider to his family. In the second season, however, he and Julia underwent a very acrimonious separation and Dr. McNamara descended to a very dark place in his mind. He became hateful, cruel, distant, and determined to hurt the ones he loved most: his wife and his partner. He shamelessly paraded his girlfriend Kimber, a porn starlet and a former lover of Dr. Troy's, in front of them to the irritation of both. His hatred eventually softened and he divorced Julia amicably in the third season. They have reconciled somewhat, as evidenced by the fact that Julia is pregnant with Sean's child -- conceived a month after the divorce.
Dr. Christian Troy (Julian McMahon): Dr. Troy is the guy that women want and men want to be. He's rich, handsome, successful, and almost completely amoral. He pursues women with a Machiavellan strategy that would leave Hugh Hefner slightly humbled. Rather than repressing his emotions like his partner, Dr. Troy is seemingly ruled by them. He doesn't understand the logic of Dr. McNamara's constant pro bono medical work, but goes along with it anyway since he would have nothing else to do. Buried deep beneath this bad-boy reprobate image, however, is a fundamentally caring person who has not had an easy life. Molested by his foster parents, Dr. Troy has problems forming meaningful attachments. By all accounts, he has only ever loved three people in his entire life: his brother and best friend, Dr. McNamara; the illegitimate son of an ex-girlfriend with whom he had no blood connection (although he believed it was his until it was actually delivered, whereupon it turned out to be a mulatto child); and Julia McNamara. Needless to say, the fact that he loves Julia is a source of tension between the two doctors. In fact, it was because of this that the practice nearly separated. It came out late in the first season that before her wedding to Dr. McNamara, Julia slept with Christian "just to see." The result of that union -- which remained a secret for 17 years -- was Matt McNamara. This revelation led to the disintegration of the McNamara family and while Dr. Troy acknowledges his part in this, he tries to avoid all responsibility for it by blaming it on Julia: something Dr. McNamara is more than willing to indulge him in. In the second season, Dr. Troy was attacked by a serial rapist known as the Carver whose trademark consists of slashing his victims' faces and calling them "masterpieces." After McNamara/Troy agreed to perform pro bono reconstructive surgery on the victims, the Carver became infuriated and attacked both doctors, raping Dr. Troy and slashing Dr. McNamara. To add insult to injury, Dr. Troy's fiancée, the aforementioned Kimber, was abducted by the Carver on their wedding day, although he believes she simply left him in a moment of painful realization that Dr. Troy didn't really love her as much as he claimed. To dull the pain of his past and to escape the unpleasant realities of his present, Dr. Troy engages in frequent one-night stands and then brags about his conquests to Dr. McNamara who, while feigning disinterest, is obviously jealous of his friend's sexual success.
Julia McNamara (Joely Richardson): Julia is Dr. McNamara's ex-wife and the love of his life. They met in medical school and were together for nearly 20 years. Julia gave up her dream of being a doctor so she could help support Dr. McNamara in the early years of their marriage and only recently began studying again. Julia is a painfully unhappy person. She had an incredibly unfun childhood, with her mother Erica Noughton representing what Ayn Rand would have been like if she had pursued a career in child psychology. On the one hand, she resents Dr. McNamara for, in her mind, making her give up her dreams. On the other, she desperately seeks his approval in everything she does despite her claims to the contrary. In the initial phase of their separation, she had breast augmentation after Dr. McNamara bragged about how beautiful Kimber's breasts were and how every man in the room wanted to be him when they got home. After Dr. McNamara showed no interest in her new breasts at all (and more importantly, no interest in her), Julia drank half a bottle of wine and took half a bottle of Vicodin, stumbling into a sliding glass door and waking up in a pool of blood and glass shards. After Dr. McNamara performed her reconstructive surgery, the couple became less antagonistic. Julia fantasizes about what her life what have been like if she had been with Dr. Troy all this time, but realizes that nothing would have changed the way she felt about Dr. McNamara. The three of them are caught in a perpetual love triangle that, while uncomfortable, is all that the three of them have ever known. In the third season, Julia went into business for herself, opening and managing a recovery spa called De La Mer, which Dr. Troy derides as "De La Merde." But it makes her happy and she feels that she is finally establishing an identity independent of her husband. Currently, she is 40 and is carrying Dr. McNamara's child. Although she had originally sought an abortion, she changed her mind at the last minute and ran out of the room and into Dr. McNamara's waiting arms.
Matt McNamara (John Hensley): Matt McNamara is the son of Julia, Dr. Troy, and Dr. McNamara. I say it this way because he is the culmination and consummation of the 20-year-old love triangle between the three friends. Matt is, to be polite, a confused young man. In the first season, he agonized over the fact that he was uncircumsized and so attempted the procedure himself. When he first learned the truth about his parentage, Matt suffered an identity crisis and withdrew from his parents. He found solace in the arms of his "life coach," Ava Moore (a very MILF-y Famke Janssen). In a highly amusing scene, Matt, Ava, Ava's stepson, and Dr. Troy all sit down for a discussion about the boys' suspension from school and have the following exchange:
Christian Troy: Sorry I'm late.
Miss Wentworth: Have a seat, Mr. McNamara.
Christian Troy: It's Troy. Dr. Christian Troy.
Miss Wentworth: I'm confused. I thought you were his father.
Christian Troy: I am. I'm his, uh, biological father.
Matt McNamara: I have 2 dads.
Miss Wentworth: Well, was there a divorce? Oh, got it. 2 dads. Emily Willis has 2 mommies. We're seeing more and more of this.
Christian Troy: Matt's father is my partner, Dr. Sean McNamara.
Miss Wentworth: I understand.
Matt McNamara: They're not gay, Miss Wentworth. My Mom slept with Christian before she married my Dad.
Adrian Moore: Technically, I don't have any father figures, but Matt's living in my house and screwing my Mom, so I pretend he's my Dad.
Ava Moore: It's true, Miss Wentworth. Matt and I are lovers. I was his life coach.
Adrian Moore: You see, Matt has a problem. He's a premature ejaculator.
Miss Wentworth: Ok, enough. I deal with dysfunctional families on a daily basis. And trust me, everyone has a story, and none of you are that special.
However, it was revealed to him that Ava was, in fact, a post-op transsexual and Matt took up drinking and tranny-chasing. Then he decided he didn't like that (during which time he punched a pre-op in the face and then got beaten and urinated upon by his friends), so he became a neo-Nazi, but only because he has no conception of himself that is not somehow in opposition to his parents. But then he relized he didn't like that either, so now he's just an asshole.
Liz Cruz (Roma Maffia): Liz is the in-house anesthesiologist for McNamara/Troy. She is middle aged, slightly overweight, and a lesbian. Essentially, Liz is the conscience of the practice. While Dr. McNamara will debate the ethical aspects of a surgery and Dr. Troy will talk about the money it could bring in, Liz usually takes the middle road, serving as a surrogate voice for the audience in the discourse. The debates usually end after Liz speaks up as she is a rather forceful figure. But not in any mean sense; she just has a certain gravitas about her character that forces people to acknowledge common sense when they hear it. She prefers Dr. McNamara to Dr. Troy, but recently took a job at Julia's spa, which creates tension in the office.
Kimber Henry (Kelly Carlson): Kimber is the love interest of Dr. Troy and was also one of Dr. McNamara's lovers for a short period of time after his separation. She was a down-on-her-luck actress who got wrapped up in Dr. Troy's live-fast-and-die-fast-too lifestyle after meeting in a singles bar. She became a porn starlet and started using cocaine, but eventually became a porn director and seemingly kicked her habit. She has a series of Real Dolls modeled after her and, in a moment of drunken sorrow and rage, Dr. McNamara had his way with one. She seems to love Dr. Troy very much, but feels he cannot fully reciprocate. The reason she feels this way, of course, is that he can't. They were to be married, but on the day of the wedding she was abducted by the Carver. Dr. Troy does not yet know this, however, and believes she left him because the words "I JUST CAN'T" were written on the mirror in lipstick in the bridal suite.
The Carver (?): The scourge of Nip/Tuck. The Carver is a serial rapist who slashes his victims' faces and tells them "beauty is a curse on the world." After McNamara/Troy began fixing his "masterpieces," he assaulted both partners and later kidnapped Kimber. Ryan Murphy has hinted that the Carver can be either male or female and that the Carver's true identity is a significant character on the show. We are set to find out who the Carver really is on December 20, 2005, so I'll update this write-up when that is revealed. Frankly, I cannot wait for this angle to be over: any discussion about Nip/Tuck online is framed around the identity of the Carver and it's highly annoying. The main candidates so far are Quentin Costa (an erstwhile associate of McNamara/Troy), Liz, and Kimber herself. There are theories that have the Carver actually being more than one person working as a team, but that seems slightly clichéd. There is also a serious movement to declare Dr. McNamara the Carver and I have to admit that the show has been dropping subtle hints to that effect (e.g., he is the only victim not to have been raped, he had a good opportunity to do something to Kimber at the wedding, etc.) but I think it's just sort of an in-joke designed to irritate the fans. I'm pretty sure the Carver will turn out to be someone like Nurse Linda, an assistant at McNamara/Troy who has had little (if any) impact on the show.
UPDATE: Well, the Carver's identity has been revealed to be none other than a team consisting of Dr. Quentin Costa and Detective Kit (a hot Rhona Mitra, aka pre-Angelina Lara Croft) who were, in fact, brother and sister. But not only were they brother and sister, they were pseudo-lovers. I say "pseudo" because it was revealed that Quentin was, shall we say, ill-equipped for the job of pleasing a woman: he was born without a penis due to a genetic defect. His sister was born with a massive scar across the entirety of the right half of her face and, from a young age, Quentin made it his goal to repair his sister's flaws. From the bitterness he came to associate with the superficiality of the people who rejected he and his sister, they became slightly psychopathic and began their careers as Carvers (although Quentin did all the leg work). Kit was the detective originally working the case and in fact caught Quentin in the middle of a torture session with our heroes Dr. McNamara and Dr. Troy in which she "shot" him -- his injury later being revealed to be an explosive packet of blood. They then escaped to Spain before the doctors or the authorities could figure it out.
I am so let down by this "revelation" that I have no desire to write anything more in-depth about the subject. I have five words for all of you: COP OUT OF THE YEAR.