Masters of Sex
|Masters of Sex|
|Based on||Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love
by Thomas Maier
|Developed by||Michelle Ashford|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||24 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||55–60 minutes|
|Distributor||Sony Pictures Television|
|Original release||September 29, 2013– present|
Masters of Sex is an American period drama television series that premiered on September 29, 2013, on Showtime. It was developed by Michelle Ashford and loosely based on Thomas Maier's biography Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love. Set in the 1950s and 1960s, the series tells the story of Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, who are portrayed by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, respectively. The series has received critical acclaim, including a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Drama Series in 2013.
Set in the 1950s through the early 1960s, the series explores the research and the relationship between Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan), two pioneering researchers of human sexuality at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
As noted by the Los Angeles Times television critic, the series "hangs on bones of fact"; "it's more useful for the viewer to think of it as all made up. Because, mostly, it is, and because to the extent it tells the story of two real people, it also adorns the telling with dramatic practicalities, invented characters and narrative detours. Indeed, it's down these side streets, casting a brief light on a passing character (patients, prostitutes, provost's wife), that the show finds many of its best moments."
Cast and characters
- Michael Sheen as Dr. William Masters
- Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson
- Caitlin Fitzgerald as Libby Masters
- Teddy Sears as Dr. Austin Langham
- Nicholas D'Agosto as Dr. Ethan Haas (season 1, guest season 2)
- Annaleigh Ashford as Betty DiMello (season 2, recurring season 1)
- Beau Bridges as Provost Barton Scully
- Allison Janney as Margaret Scully, Scully's wife
- Rose McIver as Vivian Scully, their daughter
- Heléne Yorke as Jane Martin
- Kevin Christy as Lester Linden
- Julianne Nicholson as Dr. Lillian DePaul (seasons 1–2)
- Ann Dowd as Estabrooks 'Essie' Masters, William's mother
- Greg Grunberg as Gene Moretti
- Finn Wittrock as Dale (season 1), a prostitute whom Barton Scully patronizes
- Betsy Brandt as Barbara (season 2), Masters' new secretary, and later a patient of his clinic
- Christian Borle as Francis 'Frank' Masters (season 2), the younger brother of William Masters
- Keke Palmer as Coral (season 2), the Masters' African-American nanny
- Jocko Sims as Robert Franklin (season 2), Coral's brother and a civil rights activist
- Sarah Silverman as Helen (season 2)
- Courtney B. Vance as Dr. Hendricks (season 2), the head of an African-American St. Louis hospital who seeks integration
- Danny Huston as Dr. Douglas Greathouse (season 2), the head of a hospital's Obstetrics Department
- Artemis Pebdani as Flo Packer (season 2), the owner of a diet pill company for which Virginia works as a salesperson, then Austin Langham becomes its spokesman
Development and production
Ashford created the character of Barton Scully out of a combination of several men whom Masters knew. One of them was gay, but was not the man serving as provost during Masters' initial study.
Prop master Jeffrey Johnson noted the difficulty of obtaining accurate information about sexual devices from the time period. "They were so taboo it was hard to find research drawings. People didn’t even put them in writing." He obtained some vintage vibrators and dildos for use in the series along with acquiring condoms manufactured in the era (which did not have the reservoir tips of modern condoms). He designed "Ulysses", a transparent dildo with attached camera first seen in the pilot episode, from scratch, along with a diaphragm sizing kit seen in later episodes.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||12||September 29, 2013||December 15, 2013|
|2||12||July 13, 2014||September 28, 2014|
|3||12||July 12, 2015||2015|
The first season of Masters of Sex received critical acclaim. Based on 49 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the first season received a 90% approval rating from critics, with a rating average of 8.4 out of 10. The site's consensus states: "Seductive and nuanced, Masters of Sex features smart performances, deft direction, and impeccable period decor." Metacritic gave the first season a score of 85 out of 100, based on 32 reviews. The American Film Institute listed it as one of the top ten television series of 2013.
Matt Roush of TV Guide wrote that "There is no more fascinating, or entertaining, new series this fall season." Diane Werts of Newsday gave it an "A" grade, complimenting the series on its use of humor, stating "its deft balance of epic scope and whimsical humanity", as well as the strong performances of the actors and creator Michelle Ashford's "scene-setting scripts". David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle particularly praises the performances, calling them "extraordinary" and "stunning", and noting the series' A-list directors, among them Michael Apted and John Madden. Hank Stuever of The Washington Post wrote that after the first two episodes, "the characters get better and more complex, the story builds, strange things start to happen and now I can't wait to see how its interweaving plots unfold. Alan Sepinwall of HitFix praised lead actors Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, calling them "terrific", and saying that "Masters of Sex is the best new show of the fall by a very long stretch. It's also a refreshing anomaly: a prestige cable drama that doesn't feel like a recombination of elements from 15 shows that came before it." According to Robert Lloyd, the Los Angeles Times television critic, the show is a "handsome thing, another well-dressed romp through the American mid-century, when things (we imagine) were simpler and (so we like to think) less sophisticated, but also more exciting. And it's true that sexual naiveté of that age can seem incredible in a day when pornography is just another thing on your platform of choice. But even in an age when "Masters of Sex" is a TV show, the subject remains stubbornly powerful, private and confounding. We have come far, and we are still cavemen.
The second season has also received critical acclaim equal to if not greater than the first season. It received a score of 89 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 15 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 97% approval rating among critics based on 29 reviews, with a rating average of 8.7/10. The consensus reads: "Boasting an expanded storyline and broader focus, Masters of Sex's second season improves on its already outstanding predecessor."
Awards and nominations
In June 2013, the series was honored, along with five others, with the Critics' Choice Television Award for Most Exciting New Series. The series received two nominations for the 2014 Writers Guild of America Awards, for Best New Series and Best Episodic Drama for "Pilot". For the 71st Golden Globe Awards, the series was nominated for Best Drama Series, and Michael Sheen was nominated Best Drama Actor. For the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards, Lizzy Caplan received a nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Beau Bridges received a nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, and Allison Janney won for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.
In Canada, the series debuted on September 29, 2013, on The Movie Network. In Australia, the series premiered on SBS One on October 3, 2013. In Ireland, the series premiered on October 4, 2013, on RTE 2. In the UK, it debuted on Channel 4 on October 8, 2013. In New Zealand, it debuted on SoHo on October 23, 2013.
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- Lloyd, Robert (September 28, 2013). "Review: 'Masters of Sex' explores the science of sex". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
- Sepinwall, Alan (March 19, 2014). "Showtime to premiere 'Ray Donovan' & 'Masters of Sex' in July". HitFix. Retrieved March 19, 2014.
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