“In 1956, a nationally renowned fertility specialist met a former nightclub singer. Ten years later, they published a scientific study which revolutionised our understanding of human sexuality.” So begins Channel 4’s new American-made drama, Masters of Sex.
Telling the story of Dr William ‘alpha dog of coochie medicine’ Masters (Michael Sheen: 30 Rock, The Twilight Saga), a man who is interested in everyone’s sex life but his own (although his wife does upsettingly refer to him as ‘daddy;’ which is both creepy and a massive mood killer, so it’s sort of understandable), it aims to tell the story of the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the science behind sex.
The series begins when Dr Masters finds his mind blown by the revelation from one of his ‘subjects’ (a prostitute who lets him watch her have sex with her clients for money; from inside a cupboard) that women fake orgasms. Unable to get his mind around such a possibility, William decides to put his award-winning name on the line to begin an experiment that aims to answer one simple question: why would a woman do such a thing? (He could probably have saved himself some time by asking his wife; their parallel single beds scenario says it all.)
Enter Virginia Johnson, played by the wonderful Lizzy Caplan (Mean Girls, New Girl), the ambitious secretary and future assistant to all of William’s endeavours. A woman of, according to Dr Masters, ‘unusual opinions’ (namely having sex without wanting to get married), she takes the experiment from an idea with a prostitute to a study that people in the university will actually take part in. We love her, despite her horrifically whiney boyfriend (one of those can’t get it’s just sex types despite ample evidence to contrary) who we can only hope will be appearing significantly less in future episodes.
Masters of Sex is a typical glossy American drama. The script is tight, the sets and costumes – and people – are beautiful (this show doesn’t exactly do a lot for positive body image. There are a lot of stick thin naked women). It’s got enough intrigue that most of us will probably watch past the first episode. None of this changes the fact, however, that this show is essentially hilarious. It has been the subject of some debate as to whether or not this is entirely intentional.
Whatever its intentions, be they funny or seriously inclined, Masters of Sex is an enjoyable way to spend an hour and it’ll be interesting to see how the series progresses.