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5 reasons why everyone should be talking about 'Masters of Sex'

Based on the true story of sex researchers Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson, Masters of Sex is an under-the-radar masterpiece.

That’s not to say that the Showtime series hasn’t been well received. Critical attention has been paid, and the show has been nominated for a smattering of awards, including acting nods for leads Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan. But we can’t help but collectively wonder why, two seasons in, Masters hasn’t become the water-cooler topic it simply needs to be. So, in our mission to convert the masses to this glorious series, we’ve come up with five reasons why it deserves a spot in your rotation.

1. You need a new period piece now that Mad Men is ending.

With Don Draper hanging up his fedora by the beginning of the summer, you need a new show with emotionally stunted people in gorgeous vintage clothes. Masters is that show.

2. The performances.

We’ve always known that Michael Sheen was a great dramatic actor, thanks to his film work. The revelation of the show is Lizzy Caplan, who has always been best known for her work in comedy. Creator Michelle Ashford told Forbes that when it came to casting Caplan, “Every piece of film we’d seen on her she was either kind of a slacker girl or a very contemporary or hyper-ironic or a smart-talking tomboy. We just thought, ‘Could she possibly pull off believably being a woman in the late 1950s?’ … What was so lovely about it was that she does have such a contemporary vibe but because she’s such a fine actress, she can embody a woman in the late 1950s.” Caplan brings an incredible gravitas and warmth to the role of Virginia Johnson, and her work earned her an Emmy nomination in 2014.

Sheen and Caplan are fantastic on their own, but it’s when they are together that Masters truly takes off. Do you like good acting? Watch Sheen and Caplan go toe to toe in season 2’s “Fight,” where they essentially try to out-monologue each other. Spoiler alert: the audience wins. It’s not just the two leads bringing their A-game. The Masters ensemble is uniformly strong, from regulars Caitlin FitzGerald and Teddy Sears to guest stars Beau Bridges and Allison Janney (who won the Emmy for Guest Actress in a Drama in 2014).

3. Strong female characters.

If strong and complex female characters are your thing, Masters of Sex is lousy with them. On the surface, all of these women appear to be very specific archetypes. Virginia is the radical with ambition. Libby Masters is the pristine ’50s housewife, Margaret Scully the sexually repressed one. Lillian DePaul is the genius clawing for respect in a male-dominated field. Betty DiMello is the social climber. What makes these women fully fleshed-out characters are the struggles they face: Infertility. Cancer. Single parenthood. Postpartum struggles. Infidelity. Money problems. The women of Masters of Sex dive into all of these issues head-on, and they do so in an era where women were often confined to being either a wife or a secretary.

Masters further elevates its female characters by allowing them to connect in unexpected ways. The relationship between Virginia and Lillian is the unsung MVP of the show, while Virginia’s friendship with Libby is incredibly complex, given the circumstances of her affair with Libby’s husband. Bill’s story may be the impetus of the show, but the women are why I tune in every week.

4. A complex love story.

Bill and Virginia know each other deeply. They have an intimate and near-immediate connection, stemming from the fact that they both exist outside of their own time.

Their relationship is both passionate and beautifully fragile. Constantly lingering on the edge of losing it, Bill values control. Once upon a time, he carefully chose Libby as the woman who would help him reach his career goals—the ideal doctor’s wife. Now he finds himself completely at sea, and it’s his futile attempts to unravel himself from his feelings for Gini that ultimately hurt her.

Virginia is more emotionally available, to be sure. But for a woman who has fought for and earned the right to live her life loudly, it’s a struggle for her to accept the various smokescreens she and Bill have constructed to hide behind.

Still, they keep coming back to each other. Call Bill and Virginia’s entanglement an affair, a love story, or just “participation in the study.” Whatever it is (and it might be all three), it’s messy and seductive and downright fascinating.

5. It’s the best sex on TV.

With a title like this, it had better be.

Masters and Johnson make it their life’s work to learn and tell the truth about sex. And in pursuing that work, they find that people are generally curious and open-minded. Institutions are not. It’s their duty then to force science to act like a grown-up and to stop shoving human sexuality into the proverbial closet.

While Bill and Virginia debunk lazily accepted and incomplete medical knowledge of the deed, Masters goes ahead and does the same for the viewer, per our experience with sex on screen. On this show, sex is alternately (and sometimes concurrently) titillating and clinical. It’s the means to an end, or an expression of something massive and personal, or an act with repercussions too complicated to even bother with. With all the heavily filtered, wish-fulfillment TV sex crowding our DVRs, Masters gives us a truth that might not necessarily be pretty, but is always liberating.

Masters of Sex on Showtime

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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