Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nip/Tuck: Carly Summers (5.1)

For a show all about transformation, Nip/Tuck rarely transformed itself as a series. Characters remained pretty stagnant throughout the show's six seasons, antagonists usually came in the same package of attractive psychotic women, and stories were repeated. One area that actually did transform was in the location of the series, the characters deciding to up sticks and relocate from the sleaze-filled streets of Miami to the destructive Los Angeles. It's a decision that proved irrelevant in the long-run, but did inject the series with some temporary mojo.

Settling into its fifth season, the show does what many other long-running series do at this point and suddenly begin to self-reference, initiating a series of 'wink wink' gags and some knowing humor with the introduction of Hearts 'n Scalpels. In the episode, Sean and Christian pull a Nurse Linda Klein and become medical consultants on said series, an obnoxious primetime medical soap cribbing the worst elements from Grey's Anatomy, ER and Nip/Tuck itself. Oliver Platt steals the show as the flamboyant exec producer (his demand that somebody spray silver some 'Buck Rogers-like' medical equipment was hilarious), but I also loved both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Coolidge, two phenomenally talented comedy actors who do some of their career-best work here. Cooper plays vain airhead like nobody else ("I'll be there in ten... ten orgasms!"), while Coolidge's deluded, self-important guest actress was a hoot. The scene with Candy being careened out of shot with her melted lips while gurgling like a baby is one of those TV moments that haunts me to this day.

The shift in cities has also shifted the dynamic between Sean and Christian, something neither were expecting. Sean is charismatic on screen and charms the pants of everybody with his gentle self-deprecation and quiet intensity, which leads to him being a fan favorite on Hearts 'n Scalpels, while Christian falters, his sleazy banter a dime-a-dozen in the town of Hollywood. It's an interesting piece of characterization for both.

Los Angeles vomited up two very LA patients. First we have Daphne Zuniga's aging actress Carly Summers, a woman desperate to revitalize her career with a role as a coal miner, which ends up going to the much-younger Cameron Diaz. Carly is the victim of the episode, lied to and coerced into getting surgery by two people feeding their own egos (Lauren Hutton's viper publicist and Christian himself), while Christian's brutal deconstructing of her body and what she needs to get 'fixed' was horrible. It's been five years, but he still hasn't learned his lesson from his first interaction with Kimber. And, if that wasn't enough, he screws her over even after she goes under the knife.

At the same time, we had Craig Bierko as studio executive Bob Easton. It's the classic story of a powerful, wealthy man sexually satisfied only by being dominated. Being Nip/Tuck, the story descends into cheap violence and salacious gore, but it's an effective patient subplot, especially saved by Tia Carrere as Mistress Dark Pain, a sensual businesswoman capable of rapid swings into madness and sexual control. I loved her insistence that Sean, his status growing by the day, will eventually come and visit her, but it's unfortunate that this story is never raised again.

Carly Summers is a remarkably confident start to the season, the show relishing in the gaudy delusions of Hollywood and easily importing two jaded characters right into the center of it. The show looks great once again, and it's filled with hilarious dialogue and wonderful work from a host of well-cast guest actors. Majorly impressive. A

Guest stars Oliver Platt (Freddy Prune); Craig Bierko (Bob Easton); Jennifer Coolidge (Candy Richards); Bradley Cooper (Aidan Stone); Daphne Zuniga (Carly Summers); Paula Marshall (Kate Tinsley); Serena Scott Thomas (Miranda Nelson); Andrea Bogart (Actress); Brittany Ishibashi (Girl in Club); Richard Wharton (Repo Man); Tia Carrere (Mistress Dark Pain); Lauren Hutton (Fiona McNeil)
Writer Ryan Murphy Director Charles Haid

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