As "Nip/Tuck" enters its final season, an elegiac air hangs over a show once known more for sex, blood and outrage than airs of any sort. It's not so much nostalgia, which would be understandable as the show will end on its 100th episode, as it is a sense of defeat. There is simply no joy in Mudville, no, nor in the hearts and offices of Troy/McNamara.
Part of this is due to the economy. There are many ways a television show can handle the ongoing national financial crisis. It can sink ("Dirty Sexy Money"), it can swim ("Hank"), it can simply ignore it ("Cougar Town") or it can try to Say Something Important.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, October 15, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
'Nip/Tuck': In Tuesday's Calendar section, a review of FX's "Nip/Tuck" said this was the program's final season. Although filming on the show wrapped this summer, the seventh and final season will not air until 2011.
This last one is a dangerous exercise, but it seems to be the one "Nip/Tuck" creator Ryan Murphy has chosen. The FX show's final season opens with Linda Hunt giving us a brief history of the luxury market, best symbolized by the rise in cosmetic surgery. We are reminded that our two favorite plastic surgeons, Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh) and Christian Troy (Julian McMahon), rose to fame and wealth during a bacchanal of wretched and, it turns out, unsustainable excess.
Now, of course, the economy is tanking. Now the moneyed mommies TV writers so love to despise must forgo the breast implants for just the plain tummy tuck. Likewise, McNamara and Troy each face a personal comeuppance. Sean is still dating anesthesiologist Teddy (Rose McGowan, who replaced Katee Sackhoff), and between her big-spending ways and his child support payments, he is peering into the abyss.
Christian may have gotten a reprieve from fatal breast cancer, but Liz (Roma Maffia), whom he married last season when he thought he was dying, is not taking the whoopee-I'm-in-remission divorce very well. Meanwhile, his son Matt (John Hensley) reacts to having his expenses trimmed by becoming a mime.
So the rich are getting poorer, Sean is up all night fretting, Christian is in divorce court, Matt is a mime, Linda Hunt is narrating and I greatly fear we are supposed to be learning something here. About the perils of debauchery and the empty promise of wealth.
Over the years, "Nip/Tuck" has been many things, but Dickens it ain't. Murphy and his writers attempt to inject a little levity here and there -- Barry Bostwick plays Liz's blind (and, it turns out, perverse) divorce lawyer; Kimber (Kelly Carlson) is back, having given up adult-film stardom for a career in electrolysis; and there's a super-hot new doc played by Mario López, whom McNamara and Troy bring onboard to rev up the practice via vaginal rejuvenation. (Which is supposed to be funny. I think.)
But where once "Nip/Tuck" crackled, it now whines and sighs; where once it shocked, it now plays nice (in the second episode there's a patient-related subplot, complete with Important Life Lesson, that would not be out of place on "Grey's Anatomy").
Both the main characters appear firmly, if accidentally, on the path of self-discovery and righteousness, which, frankly, is just a big drag. What made Troy/McNamara a must-see pair was their absolute lack of scruples, boundaries and self-awareness.
Granted, the show set the bar fairly high in early seasons. With its threesomes and foursomes, necrophilia and casual slicing, "Nip/Tuck" was one of the most talked about shows on TV; decline is inevitable. But at least in the first two episodes of this, the final season, they don't even seem to be trying.
Are we really going to spend our last few hours together worrying about Sean becoming addicted to OxyContin and weird girls who haunt emergency rooms while Liz gives Christian a series of "you can't use people like toilet paper" lectures? Gosh, I hope not, because that's not why anyone watches "Nip/Tuck."
Nor do we need some uber-metaphor in which the economic downturn will prove to be just what the doctor ordered, a wake-up call from our profligate ways that will lead to a new level of maturity throughout the land.
Let Sean and Christian find love and meaning, but let them do it as they have conducted so much of their on-screen lives. Utterly out of the box and with no thought of how it will play in Peoria.
When: 10 tonight
Rating: TV-MA-LSV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17, with advisories for coarse language, sex and violence)