It was the mid-aughts' most scuzziest show: Nip/Tuck.

Sex, scalpels and shit: The scuzziest things that happened on Ryan Murphy’s Nip/Tuck

Before American Horror Story, before Glee, before Pose, Ryan Murphy was television’s biggest peddler of schlock. The biggest heap of it? Nip/Tuck, all available on TVNZ on Demand.

Before the age of streaming television, you couldn’t pick when you watched something. If you wanted to watch a show that was, quite rightly for many reasons, on at 10:30 PM at night, you had to stay up and wait, hoping that your family didn’t hear the show you were watching. For me, that show was Nip/Tuck.

Even as a teenager, I knew that this show about two awful plastic surgeons who have a lot of sex and could be sued for hundreds of millions of dollars in malpractice, wasn’t good. Despite the sheen of cable television competence and pretty tanned white people (and could-not-be-less-tanned Joely Richardson), you could tell that Nip/Tuck relied on shock value and faux-edginess in order to sell its ridiculous plotlines.

And here it is that I must reveal one of my least popular opinions that I will shout from the rooftop: Ryan Murphy is not good.

I reiterate: Ryan Murphy makes bad television, most of the time. Sometimes he makes truly effective and emotionally engaging television. But most of the time? Bad television.

Even worse? He makes misogynistic television. This is a guy whose career is built on putting women into boxes – albeit different boxes, because the boxes of gay male artists look a little bit different than the boxes of straight male artists – and treating exploitation like it’s exaltation. Hiring the best actresses in the world, putting them into shows that treat them less like human beings and more like walking memes isn’t something to be celebrated – it’s something to be criticized.

There’s a kind of beauty in Murphy’s wildness and the way he refuses to be confined by patriarchal and normative narrative structures, and I kind of dig that. I dig less the way that his shows play around with real trauma and human pain with the same carelessness that he does a mash-up on Glee. It hits with the subtlety of a machine gun, with no sense of the carnage it leaves in its wake.

But I digress, significantly!

Popular was the first Ryan Murphy show to showcase his scattershot approach to the medium, but Nip/Tuck was his first cable show and he went for it. Every taboo was broken, every norm was shattered like a toddler having a tantrum in a china shop. Or more accurately, like the guy who thinks he’s being edgy by smoking inside but really he’s just stinking up someone else’s house.

And so I’ve collated, at great mental expense, a list of the craziest things that happened in Nip/Tuck. You might think it’s just a show about plastic surgeons who can (and do) fuck, but it’s so much more, and so much less, than that.

Genuine content warnings for just about everything below. Seriously, if you are squeamish or at all upset by recountings of depictions of physical, sexual, and emotional violence or have any kind of aversion to body and gore stuff, then stop reading.

Just trust me that Nip/Tuck is a messed up show, you guys.

Christian Troy and Sean Macnamara, the worst surgeons this side of Chris Warner.

Season One

  • Christian and Sean, the titular Nip/Tuckers, accept three hundred thousand human dollars to give a mobster, the inventively named and not at all racially coded ‘Escobar’, a new face.
  • Matt, Sean’s son, circumcises himself. Defying all ‘I can’t operate on him he’s my son!’ logic, Sean fixes it.
  • Julia, Sean’s wife, flushes Frisky the Gerbil down the toilet.
  • A white man requests cosmetic surgery on his eyes in order to please his Japanese fiance’s incredibly conservative parents.
  • A trans woman reconsiders her gender identity after falling in love with Liz, the resident nurse at Macnamara/Troy.
  • A woman with split personalities, which are not a thing, requests two plastic surgeries. Each personality requests a different one, of course.
  • Christian and Sean perform a one hundred and fifty thousand dollar surgery on a show dog.

Famke Janssen, too good for this world, and this show.

Season Two

  • The doctors perform surgery on someone with a gunshot wound, only later to find out it happened after a botched murder-suicide pact. One person shot the gun, the other didn’t.
  • Christian breaks his nose after a woman sneezes while he’s giving her oral sex.
  • A Somalian woman wants a clitoral reconstruction, and Christian decides he’s the best person to finally give her an orgasm.
  • Ava, a tutor hired to help Matt in his last years at high school, trades sex with him for good grades. Ava is played by Famke Janssen, who gives the role a dignity it does not deserve.
  • A woman claims to be a victim of stigmata, requires surgical intervention to… fix it, I guess?
  • Joan Rivers stars as herself.
  • Kimber, Christian’s on-again-off-again girlfriend, becomes a pornstar.
  • Kimber, everybody’s on-again-off-again girlfriend, is unhappy with the vagina of her sex doll, asks Sean and Christian, both of whom who have slept with her, to fix it.
  • Sean has sex with the sex doll.
  • A man, played by future Oscar winner JK Simmons, requests breasts implants in order to understand his wife’s pain following breast cancer.
  • Julia gets breast implants, has them removed in the next episode, and also dreams up an alternate universe where she still, somehow, falls in love with the human mop that is Sean Macnamara.
  • Ava is revealed to be a trans woman, in classic Ryan Murphy gotcha-style, because Christian has hatesex with her and finds her vaginal canal to be suspiciously shallow.

The Carver, not to be mistaken for those dumb acting masks.

Season Three

  • The Carver plotline: there’s a serial mutilator attacking women who’ve had plastic surgery and is cutting out their implants. Macnamara/Troy generally help the victims.
  • Christian performs plastic surgery on an ape to help her chances of reproducing.
  • Christian gets into a three-way relationship with his ex, Kimber, and Kit McGraw, the cop investigating The Carver.
  • The wife of an Alzheimer’s patient requests surgery to work her way back into her husband’s memories, clearly not quite understanding how Alzheimers works.
  • A spa uses human semen as an ingredient in their skincare. Lush, it ain’t.
  • Sean operates on a woman going into witness protection. He falls in love with her.
  • Christian and Sean consider hiring a doctor who is sexually obsessed with couches.
  • After a plane crash, Sean, Christian and Julia go to help with triage. Julia euthanizes a woman she believes to be her mother. Her mother is later revealed to be fine, and also is played by living legend Vanessa Redgrave.
  • The new doctor at Macnamara/Troy, Quentin Costa, is revealed to have been born without a penis, due to being the product of incest.
  • Matt dates a neo-Nazi, played by Brittany Snow, whose psycho father makes him cut the penis off of a trans woman (played by Drag Race raconteur Willam Belli) and bury her alive.
  • The whole reveal of The Carver: It’s revealed to be Quentin Costa, who’s also the brother of Kit McGraw, and they’re lovers, as well as both being the product of incest. Costa became a plastic surgeon to fix his sister’s face because she was born with a cleft palate. Kit supposedly kills Quentin, but actually, they faked his death and live happily in Madrid.

Season Four

  • A phone sex operator has surgery to make her voice more youthful, which I’m sure impossible. But hey, I’m not the plastic surgeon here.
  • A woman requests surgical makeovers for her whole family.
  • A regular client requests surgery to be a good looking corpse.
  • A character played by Peter Dinklage, in a romantic relationship with Julia, requests a leg-lengthening procedure.
  • Escobar, the racially sensitive mobster from season one, requests his old face back.
  • An episode is set in 2026 for no reason.
  • Matt marries Kimber, his former stepmother, who has had relationships with both his biological father Christian and his life father Sean.

Eden, who is meant to be sixteen.

Season Five

  • Julia dates a character played by Portia de Rossi. They have a threesome with Liz.
  • Portia de Rossi’s stepdaughter, Eden wants her hymen reconstructed.
  • Matt becomes a scientologist.
  • Matt and Kimber get hooked on meth.
  • Kimber returns to the world of porn.
  • Sean falls in love with another patient, approximately the fifteen thousandth time he falls in love with someone who is emotionally inappropriate to fall in love with.
  • Tiffany ‘New York’ Pollard plays herself.
  • The surgical practice, which has now moved to LA, start filming a reality show.
  • Julia is kidnapped, held at gunpoint, and then set free.
  • Sean sleeps with Eden, who is his ex-wife’s stepdaughter.
  • Eden poisons Julia with mercury.
  • Sean dates a woman with an eating disorder. After taking too many laxatives, she shits in his hot tub while they’re having a romantic moment. ‘Hilarity’ ensues.
  • Christian fucks his regular sex buddy and mother of his child Gina off a building. There is no better phrasing, that is literally what happens.
  • Bradley Cooper shows up as an actor who breaks his neck trying to auto-fellate himself.
  • There’s cannibalism.
  • Christian has sex with a teacher who bites her pre-school aged students. I hate this show so, so, so much.
  • Sean gets an agent, who ends up not actually being an agent, but someone who kills people and stuffs them with packing peanuts to turn them into human teddy bears. She’s played by Sharon Gleiss, of Cagny and Lacy fame.
  • Matt sleeps with someone who’s later revealed to be his half-sister. Spends an episode genuinely considering marrying her.

Rose McGowan, too good for this show.

Season Six

  • Sean falls in love with someone at work. Again.
  • Rose McGowan/Katee Sackhoff play the same character – Sean and Christian both sleep with her.
  • A man requests surgery on his adopted son’s face. It turns out to be a ruse.
  • Christian dates Kimber, again.
  • Sean dates Kimber, again.
  • Supermodel gets surgery to appear more normal, is more sympathetic than any of the main cast.
  • Christian experiments with autoerotic asphyxiation.
  • Kimber commits suicide.
  • Ava, still played by Famke Janssen, returns. She and Matt get married.
  • An elderly Japanese pornstar requests surgery to remove surgical scars, which seems odd, in order to get work in American porn films.

And there you go – that’s not even everything.

You can watch all six seasons of Nip/Tuck on TVNZ on Demand right here.


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