Thursday, 19 September 2013

"Masters of Sex" Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3 Showtime TV series, review

This is mature and intelligent television. I'm not sure about the title, play on words aside. It's probably ratings-driven. I prefer "Masters & Johnson" for a title, but Thomas Maier's novel has the same title as the TV show.
No wonder Welsh actor Michael Sheen got on board. What a versatile actor. He has played everyone from a "Twilight" villain, to David Frost, PM Tony Blair, and ultra camp Kenneth Williams (in the TV biopic). His portrayal of the crusading and aloof Dr William Masters is a highlight. Lizzy Caplan is strong as his associate, Virginia Johnson.
Annaleigh Ashford (any relation to the series' creator, Michelle Ashford?) steals every scene she is in. She plays Betty, the brutally honest prostitute (who lets Masters hide in her closet and later use the local brothel for his research). She bears a resemblance to Courtney Love. But I digress.
The mid-fifties are beautifully recreated. The contrast in social mores of the time is fascinating. The scene in the cafeteria, with doctors and nurses smoking like there was no tomorrow, was a nice touch.
There are lots of sex scenes, as you would expect, but it is never tawdry or exploitative. But it is fun to see Beau Bridges peering through the transparent dildo/camera device. Not sure what the U.S. Bible Belt will make of this show.
Episode 2 had some cheeky humour ("a saline douche, then dinner and dancing"...."My mother told me, don't put anything in your mouth unless you know where it's been"). I liked the scenes of Johnson practising how she was going to decline Master's sex research offer.
Episode 3 provides insight into Provost Scully, through flashbacks and Bill's 'research'. Beau Bridges shows what a damn good actor he is - the scene where Bill subtly blackmails him about his closet homosexuality. There is an awful pun during the frantic bunny humping opening scene: "The buck stops here". Betty and the Pretzel King was a nice subplot. There is also a poignant scene with one prostitute recounting her sexual abuse as a child.
This could be the best mini-series of the season. It is certainly the bravest.

PS Clever title design on the art work/poster.

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