Nip/Tuck: The Complete Second Season

As more and more cable broadcasting outlets follow in the footsteps of HBO, the greatest discovery might be that not everyone in the land of television is a cop, a lawyer or hospital staff. Of course, Nip/Tuck concerns itself with medical transformation — and one of its signatures is highly realistic and particularly icky surgery recreations — but it's the hope of personal transformation, and the impossibility of it, that forms its core. Those changes occur on a week-to-week basis with the various patients that wander through the offices of McNamara/Troy, but it's the need for change on the part of its principles (Fantastic Four's Julian McMahon as Christian Troy and Dylan Walsh as Sean McNamara) that drives the show's narrative. Though Christian, the less talented, ridiculously self-absorbed one, has been the flashier partner, season two delves into the family life of Sean, his wife Julia (Joely Richardson) and son Matt (John Hensley). Amongst the facelifts and more unusual cosmetic surgeries, the McNamara family is wrenched apart by the arrival of Julia's life coach (powerfully played by X-Men's Famke Janssen), who wreaks havoc on their domestic bliss. Christian, meanwhile, continues to be plagued by needy women (sometime girlfriend Jessalyn Gilsig, ex-girlfriend Kelly Carlson and surgery addict Ruth Williamson) while completely ignoring the ways in which they each reflect his own self-absorption; the trio is the subject of the only featurette on this season two box. The storytelling ambitions of creator Ryan Murphy are evident in a raft of meaty deleted scenes for nearly every episode, which reveal further subplots and intricacies, even though many of these episodes run past the TV standard 44 minutes. The show's reputation for strong, compelling storylines in season two results in some brilliant cameo appearances, from real-life mom Vanessa Redgrave appearing as Julia's mother, plastic surgery disaster Joan Rivers as herself, and Alec Baldwin in a fantastic, turning-point role in this season's finale. This year, the show goes even more over-the-top with its soapy storylines, but its centre is the real pain and need of its oh-so-human doctors and that never comes off as fake, even though its gory reality might make some viewers as squeamish as the surgery. (Warner)