Masters of Sex (2013–2016)
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Set in the 50s in the US, Dr William Masters (Michael Sheen), a fertility expert at the university hospital helps couples have babies though he has his own issues. His obsession is a study on human sexuality that collects statistical data of volunteers' physiological responses during various sexual acts. A serious man who seems unpleasant to work with, he is fortunate to have hired a former singer and single mother Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) who uses her excellent communication skills and charm to recruit volunteers for the pioneer study. Their collaboration yields remarkable results and complicated consequences.
As the drama unfolds, we discover more issues of Dr Masters with his wife as well as his working relationship with Virginia, amid other hairy situation related to the project, Dr Masters' work and his colleagues. Of course the core is the hard facts of the sex research which we take for granted today but groundbreaking in the 50s. That being said, it would very well complement the lame sex education we have in school even nowadays. Sex as a subject in this drama is not treated as porn, or something dirty, or something we would feel shameful about, or even exotic. Unlocking many myths, it shows reliable and predictable data on human responses to various stimuli. Ironically though, it is also correlated with many unhappy marriages and other adjustment problems.
I especially enjoy watching the emergent feminism bits: assertive Virginia outperforming many of her male colleagues and classmates while daring to speak her mind. At the same time, I also feel the pain, frustration and agony of Dr Lilian DePaul (Julianne Nicholson) when she has to work extremely hard but receives disproportional results in a male-dominated environment.
What's gripping about this drama is that other than the core sex research and feminism, we also explore certain interesting issues such as homosexuality, research, university funding, work, affairs, pregnancy, and of course love and romance. All these issues are still valid today.
The script and writing is superb where details are dotted early in the drama which would be picked up and developed fuller later. Seems rarely a single line is wasted. Film language is well used in conveying complex emotions and situations. Even the introduction is worth watching! The cast, particularly Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, is excellent with each of them shine in different ways. The artistic direction is authentic in portraying the 50s: the home and office deco, the cars, the fonts, even the hairstyles and fashion are eye-catching. How nostalgic!
Dr Masters and Mrs Johnson are exceptional and brave people. They might be unusual/complex and not particularly happy in their own lives but they surely help us enjoy our lives which seems to be the mission of every researcher. And for that let's give them a great applause.
A must watch.
What I found interesting about Masters of Sex is that it has managed to dignify Sex. Most of the other TV shows(Game of Thrones, for instance) throws a random sex scene just to titillate us. But here, it is all for a purpose. A purpose that Masters has safeguarded for a long time. It will be interesting for the viewers to see how the story unfolds.
I am really looking forward to this show. I hope to see some pleasant episodes in the future.
I have limited time and rarely add new content to my TV viewing, however, after reading about the series, I decided to take a look at this new one. I am totally intrigued and think it conveys the sexual culture in that time period while fleshing out the personal dynamics of researchers Masters and Johnson. The two leading the cast are Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan. They are riveting to watch.
The tone, the clothes, the music... so well done. I have only seen two episodes, yet I became aware of how far our sexual culture has changed, and despite those changes, both good and bad, we still label people even now who are sexually active or adventurous.
First two seasons were great. But then something happened and they shifted the focus from study to the relationships. I'm not talking about Bill and Virginia because they were already intertwined with the study obviously. Honestly I couldn't care less about Barton's ex-wife's open relationship or Virginia's annoying daughter and her weird rapey relationship with her disgusting boyfriend. I understand they wanted to show many "deviant" sexual orientations and relationships but they failed at that big time. Only exception that comes to mind is Betty's story which was excellent from start to finish, but they didn't even bother to give her a closure. This is unbelievably stupid. They wasted so many time with Barton in 3rd season and Libby in 4th season (all those hippy sequences, all those "romance" with that womanizer guy, ugh), but they couldn't give a minute to Betty of all characters in the last episode.
Sad thing is, the patients of Bill and Virgina were more interesting than almost all characters except Bill and Virgina: The shoe guy, the husband lost it in the session because his wife wanted some rough stuff, the woman who wanted to be treated solo for sexual dysfunction and so on. What I mean is they were already into many sexual orientations. They were about to get into infamous homosexual conversion therapy too before it eventually got canceled. I am kind of sad that it ended abruptly but I'm not surprised. For example, the gridlock scene (which again doesn't contribute to anything and is painfully dull) must have cost a lot, I'm definitely not an expert on these things but it's not so hard to guess.
Episodes should have been shorter, main focus should have been on the study, all time. They did good cutting almost all of the kids in the fourth season, but still it wasn't enough.
It is not a series for everyone as you already know the whole plot is about sex, and there's is a good quantity of nudity on the show.
In the start you can see that is really well made in all the technical and artistic aspect, and performed in the best way by all the actors, starting with the 2 best: Michael Sheen & Lizzy Caplan.
And thats it, is just the beginning of this promising series, as usual (here on IMDb) its not easy for me just put a number at the quality and effort of the peoples work specially with this one, cause perhaps it is too early to make a review, but i will rate it with 8 over 10.
If you have the time and age, you definitely should watch it.
really well written with great acting, Michael Sheen is doing a wonderful job. This show is good not because of sex scenes, it has a really good drama and i think it's full of information especially for Men, who don't know anything about sex, anything about Women.
this show is teaching me so many things, it's not boring and relationships are interesting. another great thing about Masters of sex is that the story is in the past. it makes it more interesting, So Far So good and i think it's gonna be even so much better than now.
My draw to the show was threefold, Thomas Maier's book on which the show is based, Michael Sheen, and Lizzy Caplan, two of the finest actors to bring characters, both real-life and fictional, to life. It is nothing short of extraordinary, the bravery and honesty with which Sheen and Caplan bring forth Masters and Johnson. From the first episode of the show, I was hooked. Few shows can brag this caliber of acting and writing.
There is not one episode in seasons one or two I did not like. All episodes seemed to move the story forward and reveal more about the characters, even the more fictionalized episodes that were necessary to fill the gaps beyond what the facts revealed. I do have one question about the Lillian DePaul character played by the amazing Julianne Nicholson. I have not found this character to be based on any real person. And while I loved the relationship between DePaul and Johnson, I am wondering why the writers chose to put Johnson through such grief? Did DePaul have to die? Why write her cancer as so advanced? Some lesser shows have used tragedy and trauma of female characters as a cheap ploy to make such characters seem more sympathetic, vulnerable, or build them up stronger. I don't think that is the case with M.O.S.
Season three began strong. The first three episodes were incredible, even as I understand the writers were left scrambling due to a legal issue. I am convinced there is nothing Amy Lippman cannot write and no scene Michael Apted cannot direct. In fact, dare I say these two should be the only ones on the show working their respective craft? However, I do look forward to the day when under "Directed by" is Michael Sheen, and Lizzy Caplan.
However, season three has disappointed for a number of reasons, none of which have to do with Josh Charles's character Dan Logan. Anyone who has read the book Masters of Sex knows the real Virginia Johnson had a relationship with a man named Hank on which the character Dan Logan is based.
Season three is when Johnson also begins a major sea change. In real life she was a very confident woman, in her faculties and abilities as a researcher, in her sexuality and as a woman. She was also very hopeful, exuberant and socially adept. Though after many setbacks, lost loves, and most of all failing to acquire her college degree and fearing people would not take her seriously as a result, she became very disillusioned and cold. The beginning of Johnson's slide is not so much disappointing, as again I've read the book, as it is sad to watch such an incredible woman of such poise and confidence lose her nerve and joy.
There's also the conspicuous fact that, aside from Henry Johnson, Virginia Johnson's children seem to vanish mid-season. Is Tessa watching baby Lisa? Is George watching them both? What's happening here?
The real disappointments I'm afraid may have more to do with the show runner, Michelle Ashford and her decisions regarding the shows directions. One the most upsetting and frankly utterly ridiculous episodes was "Monkey Business," the one in which Johnson exposes herself to a gorilla to entice him to mate. This not only came out of left field, but I'd like to know what the hell kind of field Ashford was sitting in when she wrote this episode, poppies perhaps? This was the antithesis of a show largely about a woman (Virginia Johnson) who is ahead of her time and is a feminist role model. And, even in a fictive world, what a degrading scene for Caplan. The story line made no sense and neither furthered the story nor revealed more about any of the characters.
Finally, the last two episodes, "Party of Four," and "Full Ten Count," were so far off the mark, in particular, the latter. The former was a fantastic demonstration of people not saying the truth and engaging in an awkward dance of words at the dinner. I love those scenes. The scenes at the Masters' house, particularly the detective's line of questioning, perhaps the writers' efforts to create a suspenseful ending, was unnecessary and cheap, a hasty and substandard way to create a finale.
Then the finale, "Ten Full Count," or a better title would be the "Unfulfilling Hour of Circling Back." Nothing happens. Literally, nothing happens. Last year's finally? We got a book, a press conference, and found out that Virginia was pregnant thanks to Lizzy Caplan's remarkable ability to convey an idea or emotion with a single look or a subtle nod.
I am so pleased Showtime has renewed Masters of Sex for a fourth season and I hope they will continue to renew it for many years to come. I'm excited for the show to get back on track to the glory of its first two seasons, to the foundation of the book, and to revealing the real lives of Masters and Johnson, two people who were so innovative and courageous, they really don't need any ploys or stunts with which to tell their incredible story. To Michael Sheen, Lizzy Caplan, Amy Lippman, Sarah Timberman and Michael Apted, cheers!
Michael Sheen plays the doctor obsessed with physiological interpretations of sex, who would go to almost any length to pursue his longtime dream. He is complemented by the beautiful Lizzy Caplan in the role of Virginia, Masters' street-smart secretary, who is not afraid to stand up to him, or to take matters in her own hand. The two are joined by the rest of the cast, which does an alright job, though it is hard to look past the performances of these two.
Back to Masters, Sheen shows his versatility as an actor again here. William Masters is condescending, arrogant and a cold character. Yet, Sheen plays him with such finesse, with so many layers, that you cannot help but get intrigued by Masters' haughty mannerisms. Sheen is brilliant here, and plays a diametrically opposite character to his Brian Clough from the Damned United, proving his incredible range as an actor. Take a bow, Mr. Sheen.
So, while you are caught up in the conflict whether to like William Masters or to hate him, Lizzy Caplan as Virginia is a welcome distraction. And, she too plays her character with great finesse. I haven't seen Caplan's past performances, but here, she is doing a terrific job.
The story is not too intriguing to begin with, but I believe the premise will grow on the public, especially because of the purely intellectual way Masters treats it. Not too sure how long they can rivet a story around the concept, but for the moment, the actors, well Sheen essentially, is what the show is worth watching for.
A series with a grounding true story that blends heartache and jealousy, live with death, and everything in between.
Roll on Series Two!!
But I was happily surprised to find that this is in fact one of the finest productions ever brought to the little screen. Fine acting, a story worth telling (and it's told with all of its warts), great cinematography, creative in its own way...it just adds up to great viewing.
...And the sex is done tastefully. It has to be shown and yet it's not done for titillation (in fact, I doubt you'll ever get turned on; this is clinical stuff, mostly).
And what's nice, too, is that this story has many levels - there's the historical recreation of events, but there's also a burgeoning romance here, between Masters, a married doctor, and Johnson, a divorced single mother; there's also a fight for women's equality side to the story here - as Johnson attempts to earn more respect; there's the courageous battle that Masters and Johnson fought, to bring science to an essential human subject; and there's a story about human imperfections and intolerance.
Better acting you'll not see today on TV. This has the feel of a fine movie and it never fails to satisfy and deliver and impress. Kudos!!!
And before you reject this series for being too quaint or of a more "naive" time where sex was impossible to talk about, let me suggest that things have not changed very much since William Masters got fired for showing his colleagues films from his sexual studies. Why, I just - shortly after writing my first posted review for this TV series - read a first-page article in the New Haven Register about a modern mainstream sexologist (James Moore, author of On Loving Women) whose Yale University book event (at Barnes & Noble) was CANCELLED recently for apparently being too sexy and controversial!
So have times really changed that much? I don't think so! (Try talking about sex to most people, even today - you'll see!)
All the which makes Masters all the more heroic for taking on such a risky subject to his established career - as this series represents.
Doubtful at first, Bridges slowly warms to the idea when he is invited into the laboratory to observe a blond secretary masturbating with a giant glass vibrator containing a television camera.
By 1956 sex expert Alfred Kinsey had already generated front page headlines and huge book sales with "The Kinsey Report", so Cloughie was far from the first scientific sex pioneer. But he will always be admired for the sheer scale and breadth of his research on sexual activity, and for leading Nottingham Forest to European Cup success in both 1979 and 1980.
There are 12 episodes of Master of Sex. Difficult to see how Channel 4 are going to spin it out for as long as that, and one can't help wondering whether this commission is not more about cheap, soft-core titillation than it is about the history of sexual research.
Clough went on to marry his research assistant Virginia Johnson in 1971. He was, without doubt, one of the greatest scientific researchers of his generation, and also, in my opinion, the best manager England never had.
In the second season, the core of the show shifted to the romantic complications between the two, which made the show look more like a soap-opera, while the actual research was sent to the background. We were also distracted with too many secondary situations and characters, much as a deceptive main course with no meat and lots of little side dishes.
The third season was a complete mishap and a waste of time, going from bad to worse, from a disappointing first episode to an embarrassing finale which broke every rule of decent script-writing and left too many untied threads. A whole army of secondary characters was introduced all along so as to add spice and interest, but this only served to highlight how void of substance the main line had become. Not even wonderful Josh Charles, resembling Will Gardner too much, could save the show, while every secondary role was pushed into unbelievable situations and attitudes.
Quite disappointed, I will not see next season, if there is one.
Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan are terrific as Masters and Johnson. There is a dual consideration to their relationship. They do have a professional relationship as Virginia Johnson is Dr. Bill Masters' Research Assistant. She is a woman with talents. Instinct, ambition, innovative with ideas and very good with people. Dr. Masters is the most talented Doctor in this teaching hospital, but he is a reserved, even repressed man. The two are exact opposites, and yet compliment one another professionally. They also compliment one another personally, as they take part themselves in the Sex Studies that Dr. Masters has begun in his study.
Lizzy Caplan is fabulous as she is sexy, intelligent, and complex. She is an ambitious woman, like a supremely interested and involved student, and is persistent in her goal of uncovering truths for the study and keeping the study and the office working and intact. She is unafraid, and knows she wants more out of her life. She has had a somewhat shady, unsteady life up until, apparently, taking this job, which changes her life. Lizzy Caplan has been said to have a "quirky sexiness" and that she has. She is also a terrific and "different" actress.
Michael Sheen as Dr. Bill Masters is also a driven person. Restrained personally, but unafraid to be a revolutionary, and even an outcast, in his prime love affair, the scientific study of human sexuality. BUT he also has a personal side that is calculating in getting what he wants, when he knows what he wants. In Season One, he does discover what he wants, both personally and professionally. I will say that without giving too much away.
So once again, Cable TV has trumped Network TV in originality, acting talent, subject matter, and writing. Of course Cable has the freedom to be more creative.Perhaps this is what draws so many movie actors to the small screen The writers need not worry about language and are not so compelled to limit nudity to, uhhhh, the 1950's? Where Network TV seems to be stuck.
So, check out this series. The only competition to the pay channels are AMC, and the BBC, and recently, Netflix. And there will be more. Listen, networks, enough writing to the lowest common denominator. I know you are trying, Network TV, but you are still falling way short. Cable TV and others are getting the better actors, and the better writers! Masters of Sex is yet another example! I can't wait for Season Two!!
The problem, I think, is that this show is satisfied picking only the lowest hanging fruit in terms of acting, character and story development. Exception for the nudity and situation, this plays no better than a poor, made-for-TV movie from the '90s when it could have given viewers the ride they get from Boardwalk Empire, the Wire, etc.
All the characters are basically one-dimensional straw men, written and acted with the minimal effort.
Lizzy Caplan, whom I've loved in everything else I've seen her in, is among the most wooden, predictable characters imaginable despite the fact that, on paper, she's playing a frisky, single mother trying to break the social mold ('50s America) she's stuck in. Lizzy's playing the role with less intent than June Clever.
I really wanted to like this show, but it's not worth the effort in my view, and I'm guessing the fault lies with Michael Sheen, the producer and main character in this. Where's the effort, Mike?
Dr. Williams Masters (Michael Sheen) is a research scientist - a very curious one who tries to explore human sexuality. For this reason he is observing people while they have sex. And he starts to discover things he never though about, and not only he. For instance that most of women just fake orgasm, the screams and shouts during acts are mostly for partner's more pleasure. Despite great importance, his experiments are not welcomed much, however he Masters still finds courage to fight for ideas with his co-workers. He confronts with everybody, including his previous believes, wife and friends.
The idea of show is quite original, since it gives a look at very interesting era of American life. I found the pilot episode very well written, with quite smart dialogs. The acting is great, especially Michael Sheen, who plays very challenging and strange character. Masters is quite complex person, with lots of layers and I guess this makes Sheen's work impressive. He studies sex, but is not any good at it, having significant problems with spouse.
Also, Lizzy Caplan looks impressive as an assistant scientist to Dr. Williams. Generally, I think this show has massive cast, who do act quite good, but there is something that did not work in the first episode. I found it a little long and somehow boring. The problem is that, story does not go quickly at all. Despite writing being acceptably good, this all good things don't work well. The same time, I think critics can love the show, since it's done with great taste.
I make a recommendation to have a look at this original idea. It might capture your attention. But I am sure, it won't become my one of favorites.
The central character is a pervy and repressed little man who can't sexually satisfy his own wife and tries to place the blame for their inability to have a child on her instead of admitting that he's shooting blanks, which he well knows is the real problem. Once the audience realizes just how dishonest he is it's game over in terms of ever having any sympathy for him. (His wife is about the only decent human being in the entire series.) Underlying all of his problems is the insatiable sexual curiosity of a 14 year old boy which he attempts to disguise as something scientifically motivated. Yeah right buddy-boy, no one is buying into that.
Basically all the men are portrayed as self-absorbed lechers who spend their days either cheating on their spouses, chasing teen candy-strippers, or both which gives the series a Lifetime sort of vibe.
Men bad; Women good!
Indeed the only male you can feel any sympathy towards is Beau Bridges' character who has to keep his true sexual orientation closeted in the suffocating 1950s.
Then there's the female lead. Oh what an inspirational feminist heroine we have here! She's a 30-year-old floozy with a long history of consistently making the wrong choices. All she has to show for herself is three failed marriages, two dysfunctional pre-teens, and a high school diploma. Like Masters, she's all about sex too. Nothing else really matters to her. Despite all her protests to the contrary about wanting to be a good mommy, actions do speak louder than words. As a result her son hates her but she puts the blame for this on him. You see, he's only acting up because he is too immature to understand just how hard mommy dearest works. She leaves the kids first thing in the morning to work at the hospital all day and then stays till midnight to watch others having sex and eventually starts having sex with her weirdo boss. It never enters Princess Not-So-Bright's brain that being away from home 18 hours a day is screwing up her kids.
Whatever happened to the notion of having characters with at least a few redeeming qualities and the occasionally uplifting story line in a series?
The lead actor, Michael Sheen, is painful to watch, he looks like the boy on the cover of Mad Magazine. His acting is fine, it's just the way his character is written is flat and unsympathetic and useless. I think I just watch this show for Lizzy Caplan. As usual she is cast as the plucky, intelligent brunette. I'm not complaining though, she's quite good in that role.
I'm surprised this show is so highly rated, it seems kind of silly to me overall, and my standards tend to be pretty low. The show is built on this suspense and tension about "ooh, we're saving the world, everyone is so uptight and sexually repressed, but thanks to us sex won't be mysterious anymore!" Looking at the world the way it is today... I don't buy it. People are just as confused and ignorant about sex. Studying for instance, how someone's blood pressure changes during sex is good and all, but it's nothing earth-shattering, it does not get at the heart of the mystery of sex. This show takes itself way way too seriously.
But whether the show takes itself too seriously or not, whether it is realistic or not, what it really comes down to as to why I don't really enjoy this show is that the whole motif is all about people going around all day being all uptight and genteel and repressed. And then one character does something that is slightly more honest and slightly less repressed and we the audience are supposed to get all excited and titillated about it and think "SO BRAVE". It's too much "yin" and not enough "yang". The creators of the show think they are creating it with a colorful palette but to me it's all globs of gray.
I have seen Lizzie Caplan nude so many times in various positions I wanted to offer her 50 cents to just keep her clothes on for awhile. Oh, it's filled with countless clichés from the open credits on. They feature a bewildering array of symbols including a hand stroking a cucumber, a volcano and the Washington Monument. Was this supposed to be clever? About as clever as being hit over the head with a bat. Yeah, it's about gonads. We get it.
The one bright spot is Nick D'Agosto as Dr. Ethan Haas. His performance is outstanding even though they dragged him through a gratuitous sex scene that we've all seen filmed dozens of times. Same scene, different breasts. (He said his father was uncomfortable with it. I don't blame him. I hope he apologized.) How far will they go with this mess? There is actually a scene of sex in the back seat of a car at night. Lit up be a neon sign of a hot dog in a bun. God help us all. And they think this is art?
The value to the series is, in my opinion, solely to view the work of Lizzy Caplan, Allison Janney, Annaleigh Ashford, Sarah Silverman and Caitlin FitzGerald. Michael Sheen does nothing with a wholly unlikeable character. There is no humanity in his Bill Masters. The longer this show continues the more awful this character becomes. And he is, ultimately, the reason I can no longer watch the show. I just can't put up with his character that takes up so much screen time to get to the female performances that are actually worth watching.