The second season of Masters of Sex, the excellent Showtime drama loosely adapted from Thomas Maier’s biography of sex research pioneers Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, premieres Sunday night. (Short version of that true story: they started “doing the research” together, wink, wink, okay fine enough with the cutesy workarounds, they had all the sex.)
You are going to want to watch it. What’s that, you say? You need convincing, because you have so many other shows to watch and you couldn’t possibly add another to your viewing schedule? FRET NOT. There are so, so many reasons you should be watching Masters instead of, I don’t know, whatever it is you think you’re going to watch on Sunday. Here’s why, in no particular order:
1. Lizzy Caplan just got nominated for an Emmy that she probably won’t win, and you’re going to want to be able to be the righteously indignant person who claims her work is overlooked because she’s doing the kind of quiet, subtle character portrayal that is rarely rewarded by the Academy. This is also a way to make up for the fact that Party Down got canceled, an injustice I may or may not still be upset about.
Yes, I am aware that this is the wrong “discreet.” It’s not my video. SORRY. I can only do so much.
2. Want to support a show that has a female showrunner (Michelle Ashford) and equal gender representation in the writers room? YOU HAVE FOUND YOUR SHOW MY FRIENDS. As an unsurprising result of this behind the scenes lady-power, the female characters on Masters are just as complex, fascinating, and well-written as their male counterparts. They get to be funny and heartbreaking and petty and insightful and cruel and sensitive and insulted and proud. Masters: maybe the only Sunday drama that consistently passes the Bechdel Test.
3. Witness some of the best work Allison Janney has ever done (she’s nominated for an Emmy for this guest role, too). The scene where Masters and Johnson interview her about her sexual past, and it dawns on her that hers is missing a very important component, will just absolutely wreck you. (Video below, but FYI, it’s a bit of a spoiler.) Janney is to Masters was Margo Martindale is to The Americans: a guest star with all the power and magnetism of a lead.
4. Do you like to see hot naked people have lots of sex? Do you wish you could scratch this itch without having to put up with a ton of gratuitous rape and torture? Masters is the answer! Who says we can’t have it all?
5. Just as Mad Men veers a little too close to the ‘70s for my sartorial tastes, Masters of Sex takes us back to gorgeous, refined but bright 1950s fashion.
6. Dr. Masters is this uptight shaken-up soda bottle just waiting to pop like all the clunky, obvious sexual metaphors that make up the show’s credits:
But despite all his pent-up frustration—or maybe because of it—he’s a really funny guy! Take this gem, which is even funnier in context, from last season’s finale: “I’m a doctor. I can spot a statistically average masturbator from a mile away.”
7. It is really incredible to see just how little we knew, and were willing to accept, about the human body and how it behaves during sex. Ridiculously sexist theories, popularized by Freud, were still ruling the day; it was Masters who announced that women are “sexually superior” to men. Hi fives all around, ladies.
8. Unlike shows that attempt to walk the line of “we know these women are treated badly, don’t worry, we’re treating women badly on purpose” (cough cough True Detective cough), Masters never lets male characters off the hook for their misogyny. There’s no Wolf of Wall Street endorsement-as-representation problem here; when these men do wrong by women, their actions are not cosigned by the show.
9. I love a show that can burn through plot faster than you can gchat “wait whatttt just happened” to your friends, but Masters is a delightful change of pace. In less restrained hands, Masters and Johnson would probably start partaking in that research in the season premiere; on Masters, we don’t get there until the seventh episode.
10. Did I mention Lizzy Caplan? Because: