Review: Masters of Sex: Season Two DVD
Somewhat ironically considering its provocative title, Masters of Sex is pretty much the only show on More 4 that doesn't qualify as porn of some description. Not real porn, obviously; they're far too nice for that. If you want that you have to look on various websites that I know nothing about honest and why the hell didn't I delete my internet history? But with its never-ending repeats of Grand Designs and Come Dine With Me, it's pretty much property and food porn all the way.
Masters of Sex is therefore a bit of an odd fit for the channel, containing neither a massive amount of rich twats converting barns into extravagant homes, or utter fuckwits judging other people's cooking and life choices.
If you're one of the 17 people who caught the first season before Channel 4 shoved it off to its sister channel that no one watches, then you'll need no introduction. However, for the benefit of everyone else, Masters of Sex tells the true story of brilliant but stiff scientist William Masters (Michael Sheen) and his research assistant Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan), who in the 1950s conducted the first serious research into human sexuality, helping to kickstart the sexual revolution in the process. This consisted of observing others having sex and, later, indulging in a spot of the old research between themselves.
The first season concluded with Masters being unceremoniously fired from his research post after presenting his work to his colleagues, with the relationship burgeoning between the married doctor and Johnson. Season two, which begins in 1958 and continues into the early 1960s, picks up with Masters' unsuccessful attempts to continue his research at other hospitals, becoming increasingly frustrated at not being taken seriously, and his inability to secure a job for his unqualified colleague.
Johnson, on the other hand, is caught between trying to work again with Masters or continue working with a terminally ill female doctor with whom she's developed a close friendship. Oh, and the pair continue their research by frequently shagging each other senseless in a hotel room. In the name of science, obviously.
Elsewhere, some of the supporting characters get a mixed bag of diverse plots. Masters' former boss, played by Beau Bridges, has a brief but tragic reappearance, unable to come to terms with both his homosexuality and being considerably less cool than his brother. Masters' wife Libby (Caitlin Fitzgerald) starts to drift away from her husband, and gets caught up in the burgeoning civil rights movement.
And two former subjects in the study have trouble adjusting to both married life and unusual new careers. Breaking Bad's Betsy Brandt pops up as a sexually dysfunctional patient with a troubled past (no, not being married to Hank), and there's fleeting appearances from Sarah Silverman and Deep Space Nine's René Auberjonois. (Enterprise's John Billingsley also shows up, but come on, Deep Space Nine was obviously way better, so Odo's getting the mention. Incidentally, Sarah Silverman was once in an episode of Voyager, but we won't hold that against her.)
It's easy to dismiss Masters of Sex as "Mad Men with boobs" (as, er, I kind of did in my review of season one, but let's gloss over that. Besides, Mad Men's finished, let it go), but it's evolved very much into its own show. It's not as slick as Mad Men, but does have considerably more naughty stuff, which is a distinct bonus. Sheen's excellent as ever as the bottled-up but brilliant Masters (just don't picture him in his Tony Blair mode during the sex scenes or you'll be traumatised for life), but it's Caplan (aka the non-Lohan/Seyfried former Mean Girls star who now gets naked a lot) who's rapidly becoming the breakout star here.
Masters of Sex is developing into one of the most enjoyable, complex shows on TV. Season two is broader in scope than the first season, and all the richer for it. The upcoming third season is due to advance the story to 1966, which will either see the pair spearheading the sexual revolution, or just spend 12 episodes watching the World Cup, which was obviously huge in the States.