FX series' flaws purely cosmetic

Alone among basic cable channels, FX has gained a name for edgy shows that are both intelligent and entertaining. The network's series and movies also have a knack for confronting not-so-pleasant truths about American society. "The Shield" presents likable cops, some of whom are rotten, corrupt and violent. "Lucky" dwells in the less-than-fabulous neighborhoods of Las Vegas, America's fastest-growing city, and the FX presentation of "The Pentagon Papers" proved to be a timely meditation on war and government deception.

Set in the slick and shady world of plastic surgeons, the new series "Nip/Tuck" (9 p.m., FX) should be the perfect series to contemplate our culture's fascination with youth, beauty and quick-fix makeovers.

"Nip" stars Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon as Sean and Christian, two old pals who have made a fortune together performing liposuctions, breast enhancements and Botox injections for a wealthy Miami clientele. Christian, a self-destructive 40-something playboy, thinks nothing of trolling bars for casual sex partners who then become new patients. Sean is the dutiful if distant dad to teenage John (John Hensley) and grade-schooler Annie (Kelsey Lynn). His beautiful, brittle and miserable wife, Julia (Joely Richardson), seems so overwhelmed by motherhood that she balks at the arrival of Annie's pet mouse.

Already burdened by his wealth and the superficiality of his profession, Sean's stress only increases when he discovers that Christian has recklessly accepted money from a Colombian drug lord to change the criminal's identity.

The stark contrast between Sean and Christian is just one of "Nip's" many overstatements. Christian's patient is not only a drug dealer -- he's a child molester. John's teenage angst stems not from pimples or girls, but from the fact that he was never circumcised. Julia wants to change her life, starting with her breasts. It's more than a tad yucky, and I'm not even mentioning the graphic scenes of cosmetic surgery. "Nip" may not be perfect, but it's smart enough to deserve another look.

Tonight's other highlights

  • Lorelai becomes the complete angler on "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., WB).
  • Laughlin gets pinched for framing Clarke on "NYPD Blue" (9 p.m., ABC).
  • The Fab Five embark on a Valentine's Day mission on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" (9 p.m., Bravo).

Late night

Kristin Davis and Jane's Addiction appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jay Leno is host to Rocco DiSpirito and Buddy Guy on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).


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