Week in Review
Nip/Tuck is a prime example of why other countries hate the United States, and why I can't imagine living anywhere else. Our economy is going down the toilet, our energy usage is forty years outdated, and our infrastructure is crumbling, but we make the best pop culture entertainment in history, and it's only getting more bizarre. I had planned to do a "week in the life" type column for this week, but I saw the third season of Nip/Tuck, and I can't imagine writing about anything else. It's trashy, weird, horrific, and campy all at once, and the soundtrack is awesome.
Nip/Tuck runs on FX. It's currently in its fourth season, airing now. Since I've been doing this project, I haven't watched much television, but I think this show works better seen at once, rather than pieced out over months. Nip/Tuck started as a family drama about a pair of plastic surgeons who are also best friends. One's a family man, and the other is a playboy. Set in the trendy and expensive area of South Beach in Miami, the show balanced family struggle against one night stands to keep the stories interesting. Most shows began with the two doctors in the patient interview with the phrase "Tell me what you don't like about yourself." What followed was unusual requests that often brought up legal, ethical and moral issues. The show was surprisingly questioning of many surgical procedures, asking, "is it right to do this, just because we can?" The first season was well-scripted, thoughtfully written, and a fresh show to watch. Then came the second season.
As with many other innovative shows, the second season looked like it had gone through many production changes. A meanness surfaced in the writing. The surgical requests became more bizarre and unreal. The sex left the condo of the playboy doctor and went into the once-stable family home. But worst of all was the running story arcs of a serial slasher who carved up the bodies of people who had undergone plastic surgery and a transsexual who preyed salaciously upon an underage character. I hadn't planned on watching a third season, but was strongly urged on by a friend.
The third season came back with a roar. It's somewhat related to the first two seasons, but it's the most bizarre TV series I've ever seen. There were entire scenes and episodes that seemed as if they had been directed by Dario Argento. Moments of pure horror pop up through the storylines that involve vindictive transsexuals (not the same evil one from season two, although she makes a Obi-Wan Kenobi-type appearance), a white power family, trannies vs. Nazis, a couple who think they're Santa and Mrs. Claus, Latino gang members, a Frankenstein Monster-style corpse, a tragic and vividly enacted plane crash, threesomes and then some sex, the most disgusting facial cream I can't divulge, and of course, the return of the serial slasher. The soundtrack choices are also more snotty, with picks like "Fat Bottomed Girls" playing during a heiney lipo.
I remember when Richard Kern films were considered transgressive, when David Lynch, Nick Zedd, and Ken Russell were the far flung filmmakers whose films incited protest and fury, and were rarely seen, even in film festivals. To see films such as these, one had to trade for grainy VHS dubs or be close to a counter culture video store or know the filmmaker personally. Nip/Tuck is floating through the basic cable lines, and you can TiVo it. Other shows, like Rescue Me, The Shield, The Wire, The Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage, Extras, The Venture Brothers, Metalocalypse, fill our choices, and that's only a few of the many quality shows. The era of Kill Your TV is over.
In the '80s and through the '90s, I latched on to the underground literature movement that was burning through the US. I rarely watched TV back then, as it was the era of Melrose Place and Wings. Exceptions were made for the X Files, Seinfeld, and The Simpsons. Bukowski, Kathy Acker, Hunter S. Thompson and William S. Burroughs were all still alive then. Jack Micheline loped the length of Valencia Street , a proud old literary lion. Leaving the TV off and going out, I saw the likes of Michelle Tea, Beth Lisick, Daphne Gottlieb, Justin Chin, Lynne Breedlove, and Stephen Elliott before any of them had a published book, reading from manuscripts that would later see print. It would take at least a whole other column to talk about what's wrong with contemporary literature and the death of the underground reading, and that's not the point of this column anyway. I stayed up until 4:30am Saturday morning watching the last five episodes of Nip/Tuck Season Three. There was no way I was going to wait another day without knowing the resolution. And it's not like I was going to sleep with that creepy slasher still on the loose. I rarely stay up reading books anymore.
But I guess this is the best segue into Litquake, San Francisco's literary festival. Starting this week, hundreds of authors will gather in pubs, bars, bookstores, and the library to read from the diverse talent pool of writers that live in the San Francisco area. As of today, TV and standup comedy are more interesting than American literature. But here's hoping for a comeback.
Pick of the Week
If you haven't seen Nip/Tuck, queue up Season 1. Do not try to watch them out of sequence.
I watched 12 this week. 370 DVDs in 274 days. 130 DVDs left in the next 91 days for a pace of 9.99 per week. Back under 10! Hopefully I will be able to get ahead in the next few weeks, as November and December will be problematic with the holidays.
r and December will be problematic with the holidays.