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Picks and Pans Review: Nip/Tuck

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FX (Tuesdays, 10 p.m. ET)

There’s a scene in the July 6 episode of Nip/Tuck that’s so breathtakingly nutty I assumed it had to be a dream sequence. Libidinous plastic surgeon Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) has finally said no to a woman, his manipulative, sex-addicted paramour, Gina Russo, who’d asked if she could have a child with him. Now he walks into her apartment to find Gina (NYPD Blues‘ Jessalyn Gilsig) trying to get herself impregnated by not just one but three eager volunteers from her Sexaholics Anonymous group. No, it turns out Christian isn’t dreaming. And, really, given this series’ penchant for delivering shocks and surprises at nearly every turn, why should this scene have been any different? In that regard, the second season of Nip/Tuckseems giddily determined to top the first. A gunshot-wound victim reveals her hideous disfigurement. A face-lift is shown in graphic, skin-crawling detail. And (eww! better fast-forward your TiVo here) Christian performs a rhinoplasty on himself.

But it’s in the bedroom rather than the O.R. that the show has really been upping the ante. A patient whose clitoris Christian has reconstructed invites him to take a test spin. Meanwhile, his nebbishy surgical partner, Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh), is grimly determined to satisfy his unresponsive wife, Julia (Joely Richardson), through strenuous bouts of oral sex.

Frankly, I prefer the verbal byplay—especially a venomous exchange between the insecure Julia and her preening mother, Erica, a child psychiatrist (archly played by Richardson’s real-life mum, Vanessa Redgrave). I also like it when these glib, seemingly shallow characters are allowed to plumb untapped reservoirs of feeling—as Julian does in tender moments with Gina’s son Wilber, the baby of mixed-race origin Julian knows he didn’t father but who has awakened his paternal instincts nonetheless. For all its “look what we can get away with” grandstanding and scalpel-sharp wit, Nip/Tuck succeeds best when it deftly pierces the heart.

DRAMA