‘Glee’ as infectiously fun as ‘Nip/Tuck’ is disturbingly depraved

The inside of Ryan Murphy’s head must look like an episode of “The Wiggles” written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Or “High School Musical 4: Off to Rehab.”

Otherwise, it’s nearly impossible to reconcile that he’s the brains behind both the feel-good hit of the fall in “Glee” (9 p.m. Wednesdays, KVVU-TV, Channel 5) and the dark, dreary, “Silkwood”-shower-inducing “Nip/Tuck” (10 p.m. Wednesdays, FX).

If the shows were any more diametrically opposed, they’d spend all day screaming at each other on cable news channels.

The social outcasts of “Glee” are nearly bursting at the seams with hope, to the point that not even the ritualized abuse of being hit in the face with Slurpees or tossed into Dumpsters can crush their dreams.

As for “Nip/Tuck,” which went from daring to depraved in the span of a few short seasons, hope caught the last train out of town shortly before it ran off the rails.

“Glee,” the very name of which evokes the feeling you get from watching it, just may be TV’s most perfect marriage of title and reaction. At least until VH1 unveils a dating show called “Nausea.”

In case you’ve somehow missed the show’s relentless promotion, the comedy-drama-musical hybrid follows the misfit members of Ohio’s McKinley High glee club and their struggles to fit in with the ruling jocks and cheerleaders.

The terrain is strikingly similar to Murphy’s 1999-2001 WB series “Popular,” down to the quarterback torn between football and musicals. Only this time, Murphy covers it better. And with more music.

“Glee” somehow manages to tap into that long-dormant gene that feeds off show-choir versions of cheesy pop songs. It’s been nearly five months since its premiere, and I still can’t get the show’s Broadway-style rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” out of my head.

Still, despite the fact that its heroine, Rachel (Lea Michele), affixes a gold star after her signature and sees herself as “the stunning young ingenue everyone roots for,” no one’s going to confuse “Glee” with Up With People anytime soon.

Sweet-voiced guidance counselor Emma (Jayma Mays) catches Rachel experimenting with bulimia, but the teen soon learns she doesn’t have a gag reflex. “One day when you’re older,” Emma tells her, “that’ll turn out to be a gift.”

Then there’s the short-skirted bundle of contradictions that is the cheerleading squad.

Its members wear their uniforms to school every single day, knowing full well the power they wield. “God bless the perv that invented these,” coos head cheerleader Quinn (Dianna Agron).

They’re all active in the school’s celibacy club, which includes an exercise that teaches couples how to show affection from a safe distance by putting a balloon between their waists. “Now remember,” Quinn explains, “if the balloon pops, the noise makes the angels cry.”

And, to top it off, Quinn’s pregnant. Though not by her long-denied boyfriend, dim-bulb football player/glee club member Finn (Corey Monteith), whom she convinces is the father even though they’ve never had sex.

It all adds up to a sense of fun that’s every bit as infectious as some of the women “Nip/Tuck’s” Christian (Julian McMahon) dates.

As season six opens, the doctors of the sex-and-scalpels drama have become nearly as bankrupt financially as they are emotionally.

“McNamara/Troy,” a voice-over tells us, “once the Tiffany’s of the plastic surgery world, was now like a malodorous whale carcass washed up on Zuma Beach.” The same could be said for the show, which has gone from being one of TV’s best and brightest to a chore to watch.

When Christian isn’t making a mold of his privates for a line of sex toys, he’s — and I can’t even believe I’m typing this — agreeing to masturbate in front of his wife’s blind divorce attorney in exchange for a lower settlement.

His partner, Sean (Dylan Walsh), is strung out on pills and having awkward sex with a stranger who gets off — literally — by hearing him describe various injuries in an emergency room.

And the once world-renowned surgeons have been reduced to making infomercials touting their new specialty: something they call “vaginal uplifts.”

Unlike its counterpart “Glee,” at this point, that’s the only thing associated with “Nip/Tuck” that could be considered uplifting.

Christopher Lawrence’s Life on the Couch column appears on Sundays. E-mail him at clawrence@reviewjournal.com.

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