Like all good seductions, the buildup is slow. Starting a new TV show in this day and age is hard – partly because the bar has been raised so high. We’re living in a golden age of TV and, as viewers, our demands are great.
And so, what new show Masters of Sex has done so brilliantly over its first season, is tread that fine line between giving us what we want and what we need: developing characters slowly in a most pleasing way. For those that missed the boat, the story is 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. Hats off to writer/producer Michelle Ashford for creating this show – one of the TV treats of the year.
So there’s the platform. All you need at this point are actors who can bring your vision to life. Step forward Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan. Sheen, as we know, is an A-list actor. And like many actors of the big screen, lately he’s returning to TV (although, to be fair, Sheen is one of those who likes to dip in and out of both big and small screen).
For Caplan, this marks a career high point. That’s not a disparaging remark – up to now she’s had notable film parts in Cloverfield and Mean Girls and numerous TV roles, including a stint in True Blood – however, here she is front and centre as ambitious secretary-turned-researcher Virginia Johnson, going deliciously toe-to-toe with Sheen’s Dr. William Masters.
Indeed, what makes this show work so brilliantly – aside from the compelling script and plot – is the chemistry between Johnson and Masters. Not obvious at first, but as the story progresses through the season, their intricate relationship begins to take shape. A lot lies under the surface with furtive looks and glances belying hidden intent; plaudits to Caplan and Sheen for luring us in – making us want to spend more time with these characters.
That said, it’s not just their show, the supporting cast were also a joy, particularly Provost Barton Scully (Beau Bridges) and his wife Margaret (played by the brilliant Allison Janney). Rather than provide filler for downtime from the main characters (as many shows tend to do), they added meat to the bones of the overall story; each bringing a new element along the way.
So, hurrah I say, for this new show. An unexpected treat. A second season has already been signed off, so more of this tale to follow. If you missed it first time round, there’s a million ways to catch up these days, which I urge you to do. Ignore lazy Mad Men comparisons and just focus on the characters and story they have to tell. You’ll be pleasantly rewarded.