Seasons One and Two of Nip/Tuck were brilliant. The writing was one of the best in television history: intelligent, engaging, thought provoking, edgy and just breathtaking and the show set the standard for TV dramas in all subsequent years. The story lines were believable yet provocative and the topics picked were right at the heart of the matter. Because the characters were written with so much depth, layer and nuances, their struggles were believable and the audience could identify and often sympathize. For the first two years I really believed this to have been the best TV drama I had ever seen.
Unfortunately, it all went downhill starting Season 3. I dont know if they changed writers or just got blinded by their success and didn’t try as hard – as it is often the case with successful TV shows – but Nip/Tuck made a downhill run starting in Season 3 until the abysmal failure which was the last season: increasingly improbable, far fetched situations that take the notion of suspending disbelief to new heights, bad to no character development (at least not one that is believable), unimaginative writing that is all over the place, everyone acting supremely out of character…I could go on with more examples.
There just wasn’t much depth in the characters later on and in fact at some point they became a parody of themselves it seems. The writers took the “sudden twists” in plot development that were gripping and enticing in the first two seasons and sprinkled them excessively in every episode to the point where it became almost ridiculous and embarrassingly unbelievable. While in the beginning they used those sparingly to get the desired effect, it was just overdone in later seasons – ultimately causing the show to lose exactly what it tried to accomplish.
As mentioned above, people behaving out of character was another prominent feature of the later seasons:
Yes, Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) is a womanizer and playboy who loves sex, luxury, hot girls and shiny cars, but he is also a wounded soul, a caring man who deep down has demons to fight while at the same time trying to hold on to certain principles he would never relinquish. In later seasons, they just turned him into a vile, ruthless, unsympathetic, one dimensional animal who is lacking a moral center. While he had some endearing qualities in the beginning, he had none in the end. He was a weak, mean coward who lost his edge and humanity.
Sean (Dylan Walsh) – who was always the thoughtful, loyal, dedicated and responsible person and especially father – was turned into a big time jerk and sex maniac in the later seasons – a man who had no interest in his family and his children and who slept around and used people.
The same is true with most of the characters really. Julia, (Joely Richardson), was a driving force in this series. Her struggles of wanting to go to med school and being more than just a house wife, as well as her subdued, unspoken love for and attraction to Christian were an important relationship and plot element.
Gradually, she made fewer and fewer appearances, however, became a lesbian at some point (yeah right) – stating she had always been one – and then she sort of disappeared for extended periods of time without explanation or closure. Her passion for medical school and her own life were never even touched upon again and she herself disappeared into obscurity.
That was sad, because Julia’s presence and the tensions that had developed between her, Christian and Sean were at the heart of the show and its drama. They spent two years building all that up just to drop the subject altogether and never revisit it again.
Speaking of unresolved: Gina (Jessalyn Gilsig) just completely disappeared at some point without explanation and then came back just to die in the most absurd, ridiculous way you can imagine: she fell during sex out of the balcony. I really thought they were kidding and this was just someone’s day dream or imagination but lo and behold, that was it: she really fell off the balcony while fucking Christian.
Not only was that ridiculous but also sad in a way and just insulting to what the writers had done with the character in the first place. I always found Gina very fascinating and tragic; the self destruction, low self esteem, the fact that she was Wilbur’s mother and her battle with HIV. The tragedy her character experienced was filled with potential and they just let her fizzle out and then die in this embarrassing, trashy manner. Totally insulting. I wonder what Christian will tell Wilbur when he asks about his mother one day.
There is also Kimber (Kelly Carlson), another deeply tragic character who ended up being very underutilized given the potential the writers had with her. They did an amazing job exposing her self destructive tendencies, but then just like that, they dropped her and she too became a two-dimensional paper doll and a cliché.
Christian marries her on and off over the seasons, but nothing in their dynamic with each other changes. She doesnt develop as a character for either the better or the worst. I saw a glimpse of hope when she got the abortion and it turned out she could never have kids again, but instead of going on on that strong note, they just dropped it and let it fade away. The same thing happened when she died. Did she commit suicide? Is she dead? Is she alive? What exactly happened? We never find out. Her death was not remarkable to anyone – which it should have given that she’s been there since Season One and an important character.
There is also that entire plot of Christian marrying Liz (Roma Maffia). Speak of behaving out of character: Liz always held herself and others to the highest standards. She had a disdain for Chrstian’s superficiality and how he used and treated women and she was fully aware of it too. She would never have stooped to his level and married him. That was just not her. But they put it in the script and made her whine and pine after Christian and it was ridiculous.
If these were changes in plot and character the writers intended, they should have gone about it in a different way (even though there is no excuse for some of the outlandish plot twists they introduced). People don’t just change overnight and fiction or not, you still have to adhere to certain rules such as character consistency within a plot.
Sean was portrayed from the beginning on as a hard working, ethical, dedicated father. It is completely out of character for him to suddenly turn into a vile jerk who uses women and doesn’t care about his kids.
Liz would never have fallen for Christian’s sweet talk and married him and then pine away after him, that is ridiculous – not to mention that she is a lesbian -i.e. not into men.
Of course it is possible for people to change but there has to be evidence for it in the story and plot and not simply because the script says so. The later seasons are drizzled with even more such inconsistencies, which is a sign of bad writing more than one of just things having changed due to the circumstances the characters find themselves.
Acting out of character is not character development.
Finally, changing the setting from Miami to L.A. aided in ruining the show completely. The L.A. setting made them be nothing but a bunch of cheap, trashy, run of the mill Beverly Hills plastic surgeons trying to find a way to sell out to the media by humiliating themselves – sort of like the Kuntrashians.
There is some kind of a mystery, sexiness and just boldness to Miami which L.A.’s theme-park commercialism lacks. In the show, L.A. was portrayed as a den for greedy TV producers and dumb people with non-existent moral codes willing to do anything for a dollar, a dick and a dream.
McNamara and Troy just became pawns in that scheme and the stories shifted from them to Los Angeles, the dirt of that town and the despicable people roaming it (to the point of stereotyping the city). That was a bad move which, in my opinion, pretty much sealed Nip/Tuck’s ruin and reduced its quality to just any other forgettable TV show you hope to end.
The bottom line is that after the success of the first two seasons, the show’s producers and writers put the characters into increasingly more improbable situations to the point of turning them into clichés of themselves and the show as such; coupled with the issues mentioned above – such as character inconsistency and poor, chaotic plot development – the result has been that over time a serious disconnect has been created and once you have too many of those disconnects, you lose credibility. And I think that is the main breaking point in the end: the show lost a lot of credibility, unintentionally became a farce of itself and with that it lost the edge and brilliance that made it so amazing and intense in the first place.