Masters of Sex Debuts on Showtime Tonight — Recommended!

Just watched Masters of Sex on Showtime on Demand, and it was great — funny, revelatory, fascinating, and thought-provoking.

Attitudes about sex in 1956 were restrained, as you’d expect, which made Dr. William Masters’ work exploring the physical reactions to intercourse and orgasm all the more surprising. Virginia (“Ginny”) Johnson was his secretary, later his partner in this groundbreaking research into human sexuality. Masters of Sex explores their work and personalities.

Masters is restrained (with ego-driven deception when it comes to his wife), while Johnson is open, quite a modern woman (and a single mother). Without her ability to both speak her mind and set people at ease, his work never would have proceeded. She knows what she wants, including sexually, and she’s not afraid to ask for it (or deceive in her own ways). Meanwhile, his career is on the line (Beau Bridges plays the university administrator opposed to the studies), and his wife is depressed that they can’t have a baby of their own, since he’s well-known for his fertility research. (Turns out that this is dramatic invention, since by this time, they had two kids.)

Lizzy Caplan, Beau Bridges, and Michael Sheen in Masters of Sex

Lizzy Caplan, Beau Bridges, and Michael Sheen in Masters of Sex

It’s astounding to me that someone had to prove that women, for example, can have multiple orgasms. (Mainly because the scientists were male and apparently never thought to ask a woman.) The show can be titillating, showing wired-up people (with scary-looking old electrodes, for the tracking) having sex or, in the first episode, demonstrating the camera dildo that allowed observation of a woman’s physical reactions. I found myself laughing out loud a lot during the show, too.

The set dressing and costuming is nicely period, with the appeal of Mad Men, but with more positive motivations. It’s definitely a cable show, with nudity and language, but it’s also a pleasant change from the glut of violent anti-heroes. The first episode (of 12 this season) officially debuts at 10 PM Eastern tonight. You should watch it.

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