5 Reasons to Plug In to Masters of Sex

5 Reasons to Plug In to Masters of Sex

Season 1 of Showtime’s critically acclaimed Masters of Sex has just ended, which means you can watch it on demand or on Netflix before season 2 starts up in the new year–a perfect holiday pastime.

And watch it you should. After Kinsey and before the sexual revolution went into full swing, Dr. William Masters (Oscar nominee Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan)  were researchers tracking America’s kink factor–or lack thereof–in of all places, St. Louis, where Masters was a prominent ob-gyn and closet researcher. What did women and men like to do in bed? Who had orgasms and who didn’t and what brought them about? What about the gays? (One of Masters’ and Johnson’s books was Homosexuality in Perspective where they explain gay is here to stay.)

Michelle Ashford’s dark comedy of sexual mores is based on Thomas Maier’s book Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Master and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love. An intriguing look into our not-so-distant past and the American sexual landscape, Masters of Sex is a fling worth having.

5. Naked Women Are Always Hot

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Masters of Sex has plenty of...sex. There are women everywhere–pretty and sexy and complicated. Yet this isn’t just veiled porno. The show–despite the nakedness–is about what sex does to us and what society does to people who have sex. It’s complicated because sex is complicated. If you watch Masters of Sex you’ll come away hot, but you’ll also come away with knowledge you didn’t have before presented by a cast of characters that is utterly compelling.

4. They Respect You in the Morning

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Masters of Sex is more than just a light-hearted romp through the 1950s and 60s. Masters was an iconoclastic scientific researcher and Johnson, a former secretary, was his  deeply committed intellectual equal. The two had super-charged chemistry which Sheen and Caplan evoke well. Masters’ passion for his research–even though he had to do much of it on the down-low–is mesmerizing, the research itself an imperative in discovering how our sexuality works–or doesn’t. There’s closeted gayness, lesbianism and other sexual intrigue. The show, like the researchers, is no holds barred.

3. Sex Isn’t Everything–Or Is It?

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In one of the series’ earliest storylines, a prostitute, Betty DiMilo (Analeigh Ashford) is trying to reconcile her work where men pay her for sex with her love for another woman. And oh yes, it’s that intense. The lovely Ashford makes Betty a deeply sympathetic character about whom we want to know more. What was it like to be a prostitute and a lesbian in 1956? Showtime just signed Ashford from recurring to full time status. 

2. We Want to Know More about Our Sexual Pasts

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Who were Masters and Johnson, how did they meet and what propelled them to embark on this fascinating journey? Sheen is by turns priggish and provocative, Caplan’s Johnson is sotto voce flirty, insouciant and eager as she cajoles nurses and doctors to have sex for the camera. Master of Sex veers between light-hearted romp and serious drama with ease and elan. We’re as shocked as some of the show’s characters by what the good doctors are up to, what they discover together and what the societal and gender implications are when their data comes in… 

1. Sex Is Right There in the Title

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Who isn’t interested in sex? We are all voyeurs to a degree, as Masters’ and Johnson’s own research revealed, but most of us would also love to be participants. In pairs and menages. Like other recent period pieces–The Hour, Dracula, Mad Men, Downton Abbey–the research into the era and the work is meticulous. The sets are vintage, the scripts reflect the changing–or static–mores of the time, the sex is intriguing and the acting of Sheen and Caplan as well as the ensemble cast that includes The Millers’ Beau Bridges and Margo Martindale and Mom’s Alison Janney is superb.

 

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