2007 Paley Festival Recap: NIP/TUCK

The TV Addict himself got to pose with the original Kimber (Kelly Carlson). And no, I know what you’re thinking — she didn’t convert me to scientology.

In hindsight, the NIP/TUCK panel was perhaps the week’s most disappointing panel at this years Paley Festival. In fact, the word panel is a giant misnomer — as the night was pretty much dominated by two voices — creator Ryan Murphy and star Julian McMahon (Dr. Christian Troy). While Murphy offered up some interesting anecdotes and insight with regards to the show, star Julian McMahon dominated the conversation a little too much for this TV addict’s liking. Who knew Julian McMahon had so much in common with the centre-of-attention doctor he plays on NIP/TUCK?

That said, here’s what creator Ryan Murphy had to say with regards to the origins of NIP/TUCK, on casting the show, the infamous story-lines, stunt casting and of course, the carver controversy.

Ryan Murphy: I was a journalist in the mid nineties. My job was to cover hard news in the LA area. The problem was, that there was none — I was covering the Zsa Zsa Gabor trial. I read this article about Men getting calf implants — like it was all the rage. I thought it was fascinating and ridiculous at the same time. I talked to my editor and he agreed that I’d go undercover to a plastic surgeon and write the article. I found a gullible and sweet plastic surgeon. In the consult he told me ten other things that I needed to have done. He’d say things like ‘Beauty is symmetry’ and that I was a ‘moderately attractive person but my ears were half a centimeter off.’ I was so stunned, but at the same time I was thinking he was right. I didn’t write the story but I never forget the experience. ‘Tell Me What You Don’t Like About Yourself’ came from that meeting.

Following POPULAR I was stuck doing an awful sitcom. My agent said, why don’t you try to write something that you love. Karnal Knowledge + Plastic Surgery = NIP/TUCK. FX bought the pitch in the room and two months later we were shooting the pilot. It happened very quickly.

NIP/TUCK is essentially a love story between two heterosexual men. We could never do it on network TV. I loved THE SHIELD and the only place I thought NIP/TUCK could go was FX or HBO and I choose FX and it had a happy ending.

Star John Hensley (Matt McNamara)… did you know he almost didn’t audition because he didn’t want to pull an Ian Ziering. Translation: He didn’t want to play a teenager when he was actually 25!

Dylan Walsh: I turned on an HBO movie and saw Dylan Walsh — he was so miserble in it, I wrote the character of Sean for him.

Roma Mafia: I was obsessed with Roma Mafia’s dialogue in DISCLOSURE. I would act it out for friends. When she came into read, I acted the scene out for her.

Julian McMahon: Julian’s part was originally for a Latin male. But Julian came into the room and I thought, well that is very interesting. Julian was so fantastic, he had to come back six times for the network, but I loved him.

John Hensley: John came in and was the immediate choice after he left. He blew everyone away.

Kelly Carlson: Kelly was very interesting. She was a model who just started to act. Her role in the pilot wasn’t very big, but I was so moved by her when I directed the pilot, I just kept writing and writing for her and she became a series regular.

Joely Richardson: Joely was a very difficult part. A lot of big names in Hollywood wanted to do it, but they wouldn’t do nudity. We got a call from Joely Richardson’s manager saying Joely couldn’t stop thinking about the script. We met with her and the rest is history.

NIP/TUCK was an instantly marketable idea. I think FX did a great thing, coming up with posters that were banned in several cities. The first poster was a woman with an eye job. It was shocking and meant to provoke. FX has always known how to sell the show and I think that’s a very important thing.

Creator Ryan Murphy

A lot of people don’t realize that NIP/TUCK is a satire of our culture. In every writers meeting, we sit and gossip for an hour about what we read with regards to pop culture. The whole Famke Janssen ‘Life Coach’ story came from the fact that people were actually paying people to be life coaches. We thought, let’s write about that and then make her a transexual. The show really examines what ridiculous extremes people will go to to fill the perceived holes in their lives.

On Monday I’ll come into the writer’s room and announce that I’m bored — shock me. We then troll the internet and learn a lot. We’ll find an interesting case, take it to our medical experts and they tell us how we can shoot it and make it interesting. Every case we’ve done is real except the face transplant. We got ripped in the media for that one. But literally, a week later, there was the world’s first face transplant. I take great pride in that!

The motivation for going into the future [in a season four episode] was to show that Sean and Julia’s break-up was for real. We really wanted to tell the audience that the marriage wasn’t going to work out. It was an interesting choice and now that we’re into another season I have second thoughts about it because we’ve sort of committed to a certain outcome. But for me, I wanted to do something that in a weird way boxed us into a corner. It was a fresh and odd television. We took away their choice.

When I pitched the pilot it was initially going to take place in Hollywood. But the network thought, and I agreed that we should start the show somewhere else, as to not fall into the starlett of the week trap. We choose Miami because we had to clearly set the show in a city with skin. We did it for four years, but after four seasons, how many more times can we go into Sean’s kitchen? The surgeon’s room? Christian’s apartment etc. I thought it would be very interesting to move the characters that we already know to Hollywood. It wouldn’t have worked four years ago, but now that they’re in LA, at the age of 42, they will have to literally start over. And since we know our characters so well, we can do the architypes the audience expects — the movie star, the studio executive with a dominatrix etc.

After season two we were on such a high. We’d just won the Golden Globe and we had a lot of magazine covers. Everyone was doing really well. But with that level of success, there’s no way you can win, that’s just the nature of the beast. Of course I realized that halfway through season 3 (the Carver season). Originally I thought, let’s shake it up and make the carver gothic. To me, there was no real difference between a plastic surgeon and the carver. But for the audience, the show became too dark and scary. I know people who loved season one and two but couldn’t watch season three. Personally I was in a much darker place in my life and you write what you feel.

I know the cast hated it because the show had always been about the family. In season three, we took an outside character and really had him call the shots. Dylan [Walsh] called it ‘Police Woman.’ They were essentially solving the mystery. But it really did well in the ratings. Season three’s finale was the highest rated episode ever.

It’s just something you see in our culture. When you have big success, you will be brought down. It happens to every huge show on television. Look at LOST. Season two they reached this huge zenith and now they’re being ripped by the media and fans. You then become a huge underdog and either sink or swim.

It’s really hard, the culture says we love you then they finally hate you. You go from an ‘A’ rating in a magazine to a ‘D’ in the middle of the third season.

I felt a huge responsibility to re-invent the show and bring it back to what it was. With the fourth season we told stories about the people we love. We also did what I resisted for a long time, stunt casting.

A lot of famous people love the show, it’s a big industry show. We get calls all the time from stars, and this season I thought why not? We don’t want to be the LOVE BOAT, but if Catherine Deneuve calls and says I love the show and will you write me a part? what can I do?

Typical fo the show, I have a meeting with Brooke Shields and create a character for her that you’d never think of — a sexual compulsive therapist. The same thing happened to Rosie. I said I’m going to write something that nobody would expect you to be — a heterosexual who dresses like Joan Collins. I met Peter Dinklage and said I would love to write a part for him. That’s what we did last year and it worked. We’re going to do more of it this year. Once you start smoking with Catherine Denuev on the set, you don’t want to stop.

[Aside from the return of Larry Hagman, Brooke Shields, Rosie O’Donnell, and Jacqueline Bissett, rumours are swirling that both Nicole Kidman and Madonna will be making guest appearances on the show.]

Click below for our other Paley Festival ReCaps (Still to come — UGLY BETTY)


For all the latest TV news and reviews

  • Julien

    Take a second look at the picture, you didnt put the right name under it

    Anyway, it’s nice to know that the cast hated the season 3, it was so bad…

  • Julien — thanks for the photo tip. I’m still on ‘west coast’ time. (I’ve only got a few days to get the most out of that excuse!)

  • Renee

    I really have to disagree with you there about the Nip/Tuck panel being the worst night from the Paley Festival. I went to four of the five panels that you attended, (didn’t go to Dexter) and this one was my personal favorite out of all of them. Yes, Julian McMahon dominated most of it, but at least he was funny and interesting. I guess if you’re not much of a fan of Julian McMahon I can see why you wouldn’t enjoy it. But I also thought that the host did a great job too. From all the panels, it was really Prison Break that was the worst- besides Wentworth not being there, the host was lame and he barely asked questions for the actors.

  • Renee,

    Thanks for your take. While your definitely entitled to your opinion, I just found the NIP/TUCK panel the ‘Julian McMahon’ show. Don’t get me wrong, the panel was still interesting, but I prefer an evening where we really get hear from the entire cast. Dylan Walsh hardly said two words. The night lacked the energy and excitement of the HEROES panel, or the humour and warmth of the UGLY BETTY panel.

  • Smizz

    I always had the feeling that the writers/creator hated these two main characters. They were like, “Oh, you’re happy about your new baby? POOF, now he has lobster hands. Deal with that.” or, “Feeling a little down, Christian? Well, POOF, doubt your straightness. Maybe you like dudes. I bet that messes with your head.”

    I will never get over giving that kid lobster hands.

  • Pingback: the TV addict » Blog Archive » A Cylon Invades SUPERNATURAL()

  • JDeanB

    While the celebs can be a terrific addition (Rosie, Brook Shield), I hope they do not go overboard and lose site of the main characters. The best shows reveal the humanity of the main characters. I am more than a little concerned that the show could possible fall into the Will & Grace trap of trying to cover mediocre writing with a array of guest stars. (And…please not Madonna. ) And…just because the future was envisioned with a Sean and Julia apart does not mean they have to adhere to that vision. The characters seemed quite miserable…don’t take away the hope of some happiness.

  • Michele Gold

    Dylan Walsh from Nip/Tick is going into a show in NY this week. I can’t believe that I got my wife tickets to see him LIVE ON STAGE. She is sooooo happy! Check it out – http://www.storieslefttotell.com

  • katie

    Ryan Murphy did not mention the character Michelle but took liberty discussing Faith [Brook Shields] and Dawn [Rosie O’Donnell]. I find the omission of Michelle [Sanaa Lathan] quite interesting. Was Sanaa Lathan a disappointment or was the ill conceived character just a bust? I listened to a an interview with Julian McMahon, he [too] talks quite fondly of the guest actors but again, omission of Sanaa Lathan. Larry Hagman returning….I did see that coming.