It's virtually inconceivable to think that fans of FX's daring and, ahem, incisive new plastic-surgery drama, Nip/Tuck (airing Tuesdays at 10 pm/ET), owe a debt to sleaze queen Jenny Jones. But, series creator Ryan Murphy assures us, it's true. "I've always been incredibly drawn to before-and-after stories," confesses the exec, who also produced the WB's high-school comedy, Popular. "I'm the first person to watch any Oprah or Jenny Jones where there is a makeover.

"I love that stuff," he adds with a chuckle.

Of course, Murphy would never call the cringe-inducing operations performed on Nip/Tuck a laughing matter the way he has the high jinks on his former series. "In Popular, I [addressed the issue of self image] in a much more blithe way," he suggests. (No kidding — one character carried around a container of ebola to expedite weight loss!) "But the thesis statements [of both shows] are very much the same, and that's, 'What will people do to be accepted?' That's sort of a running theme in a lot of the work that I do, and it's something that's very important in our culture right now."

If you've ever been touched by the Why Can't I Be Audrey Hepburn? scribe's words, perhaps it won't surprise you to know that this topic hits as close to him as it does to any of us. "Television, magazines, movies... it's all about the culture of youth and trying to maintain a status quo to be loved," he philosophizes. "I mean, the images that we are bombarded with daily are pretty much the same — the prototypical 23-year-old smiling and looking pretty.

"I look at those people," he continues, "and I sometimes feel like I don't stack up — and can't possibly stack up — so I go home and write these dark scenes in which people are grappling with the same things. I think that's why Nip/Tuck has touched a nerve. I relate to it, and I think most people do."