First Look: ‘Masters of Sex’


The only Showtime series I’ve ever bothered to watch is Homeland (comes back this Sunday!), although I’ve heard increasingly good things about the cable channel over the years. One of their new shows this fall caught my eye, and it’s not just because of the titillating title.

Masters of Sex stars William Sheen and my beloved Lizzy Caplan (Janis Ian of Mean Girls, if you didn’t know) as William Masters and Virginia Johnson. The pair completed a massively influential research study on sex in the 1950s, and the show looks to tell that story.

Wonderfully, Showtime has put the pilot of the show (which also airs this Sunday) on YouTube for people to check out beforehand. A try before you buy kind of thing. Here is said pilot, although beware that the video will prompt you to actually go to the YouTube link to watch.

What I loved most about the pilot was that although this is a show about SEX on CABLE, it’s clearly not interested in being a peep show. It could have easily gone that way. Masters is scolded by both his boss and a prostitute that he will be labeled a pervert, and one of the episode’s earliest scenes has him conducting research from a closet watching people have sex through the crack. But once Lizzy Caplan is on screen as Ginny Johnson, it becomes very clear that this is a show about women, sexuality, shame, and life.

It’s a little much that Ginny’s friend with benefits, Ethan (Nicholas D’Agosto), falls in love with her and then feels her rejection over the course of the pilot. I wish that would have been teased a little longer, because it loses some subtlety when he slaps her and calls her a whore within the first hour of the show. Should that relationship have developed over the course of the first three episodes while Ginny adjusted to working with Masters on the study, it may have had a more rewarding payoff.

But still, Masters of Sex has declared itself as a daring show that looks to explore the effect sex has on society and relationships. It’s not sex for sex’s sake, and that’s definitely something I welcome on cable.


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