NIP/TUCK created by Ryan Murphy, with Dylan Walsh, Julian McMahon and Joely Richardson. Sundays at 10 pm on CTV. Premieres March 4. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
While Nip/Tuck used to get off on the sexcapades of its doctors and patients, the cosmetic surgeries - always gruesomely detailed - and the ethical dilemmas they raise have always fed the dramatic frisson.
At least, they used to.
Nip/Tuck's twisted fuck-hate triangle between uptight plastic surgeon Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh), his moral opposite Christian Troy (Julian McMahon) and Sean's Sybilish wife Julia (Joely Richardson) gets a new - although hardly shocking - kink in the season-four opener.
During a ménage-à-mother-daughter, Christian comes to realize mid-bone that he might be more homo- than metrosexual. Seems only gay men decorate their condos with furniture that isn't from Ikea.
An interior designer is dispatched to butch up his bachelor pad, but all the black leather, faux animal skins and cock sculptures in the world aren't enough to deflate the man-lust for Sean rising beneath Christian's BVDs.
Sean, meanwhile, is dealing with not being able to get close to his very pregnant and forever emotionally distant wife, who's just found out that their unborn son is - no, not Christian's, although that's the first thought that pops into Sean's head, and who can blame him? - physically handicapped. This makes Sean a surgeon whose son will never play the piano, throw a curveball or jack off with decent rhythm. How sad.
It seems, since last year's Carver plotline, going under the knife has taken a back seat to going down on the nearest willing participant.
The season opener skips the usual boob jobs and lipos in favour of guest star Larry Hagman, who needs new nuts (the ones he has make his dick look like "an SUV with training wheels"), and Kathleen Turner, who plays a phone sex operator undergoing vocal cord surgery to make her sound less like Harvey Fierstein and more like she did in Body Heat.
The result is a rather flaccid start to what has been one of the most memorably bizarre dramas on TV. Where's a good tranny serial face slasher when you need him, uh, her?
Hank's in a Huff
HUFF created by Robert Lowry, with Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt, Paget Brewster and Blythe Danner. Sundays at 10 pm on Showcase. Premieres March 4. Rating: NNN
Hank Azaria is best known for the billions of crazy voices he provides on The Simpsons: Moe Szyslak, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy and on and on.
But Azaria is surprisingly subdued as Dr. Craig Huffstodt, an L.A. shrink sent spiralling into a mid-life crisis when a 15-year-old patient blows his brains out during a therapy session.
In fact, the cable series's most cartoonish moments are provided by Azaria's impressively pumped pectorals. (I wonder if he's been working out with Carrot Top.)
Huff the series is essentially a Six Feet Under-meets-Everybody Loves Raymond dramedy, an oddball mashup that works remarkably well.
There's a homeless Hungarian symphony conductor who may or may not be a figment of Huff's Xanaxed-out imagination. Huff's shrewish mother (Blythe Danner, allowed to hit only that one note) lives in the guest house and hates Huff's loving and supportive wife (Paget Brewster).
Huff also has a precocious teenaged son (Anton Yelchin), a boozy best pal (Oliver Platt essaying yet another Falstaffian role as only he can) and a brother (Andy Comeau), who happens to be both (a) an institutionalized schizophrenic, and (b) the only person Huff can really confide in.
And while the acting is top-notch and the story's all well and good, it adheres a bit too closely to its rather mundane tagline: Life. Sometimes you wake up in the middle of it. Because as good as Huff is, sometimes you fall asleep in the middle of it.
WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEK
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22
Grey's Anatomy (Drama) While I for one woud be happy if they offed the title character David Kelly-style, there's little chance Meredith actually drowns. It would be like killing Marsha Brady during the Bunch's Grand Canyon adventure. Which reaffirms this senti-medical drama as TV's biggest fantasy series. 7 pm on CTV, 9 pm on ABC
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 25
79th Annual Academy Awards (Awards Show) Will Ellen DeGeneres bring back the Oscar dance number? Will the now-taxed presenters' swag bag contain anything more than a pack of Juicy Fruit? Will Martin Scorsese finally take home a little gold man not named Leonardo? Will anybody care either way? 8 pm on ABC and CTV