Many who know me personally will know that as much as I enjoy movies, I typically don’t gravitate towards TV shows. I don’t think it’s simply as issue of content rather than just not having the time to commit entirely to TV shows. There are only a handful of sitcoms and other programs that I will take the time to watch, but I have to be hooked right away. I don’t seem to recall hearing much about Masters of Sex during its original broadcast run, but seeing the solicitation for the complete series set got me hooked. I read up a bit on it and the reviews were generally pretty positive. This, in addition to liking Lizzie Caplan (a main star on the show) and the central hook about the pioneers of the science of human sexuality all had me. The show ran on Showtime for 46 episodes, before being canceled after the 4th season. The very subject might seem taboo or off-putting to some, but if you give it a chance, you’ll see that there’s so much more than meets the eye. I was with it pretty early on and appreciate the attention to character development and specific details, especially of the era. The show takes place in the 1950’s through the late 1960’s. While I never watched Mad Men, I’ve read some reviews comparing it to that show. While I think it’s ultimately a show you watch and be done with, this Blu-Ray set presents it in a great way and has some quality features to keep you busy for a while, should you wish to own it. Let’s take a look at the show and what one can expect.
Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) is fascinated by the study of sex and sexual behavior. He runs a successful practice by day, but conducts a secret study of human sexuality by night. Virginia Johnson (Lizzie Caplan) is along for the ride as well. She’s a single mother and former night club owner, but is every bit as interested and invested in this study as Dr. Masters is. There are more than a handful of characters who pop in and out of various episodes. We get strong performances from Beau Bridges, Allison Janney, Teddy Sears and several others. As we progress through the series, some characters get more screen time than others, but there is a nice balance to the series as well. The transition from season 1 to season 2 is pretty seamless save for the fact that season 2 slows things down a bit. Not only does the focus broaden to other characters, but the pace doesn’t move quite as briskly as the previous season. When we get to season 3 that is when the biggest change occurs as the show is set entirely in the 1960’s. I enjoyed this season more than the second (which I still enjoyed) largely because it offers something new and different than what the previous seasons offered, all while sticking to what the show is really about at its core: the study of sex. The 4th and final season has a lot going on, but I’ll avoid spoiling for those who’ve yet to see the show. Unlike the previous 3 seasons which were all 12 episodes, season 4 contains just 10 episodes. Ultimately, I feel satisfied with season 4, but it also felt like a show that was reaching its limit. After a while, there’s just so much one can do with the subject matter that hadn’t already been addressed in previous seasons.
Having sat down to watch this entire series in a short time, I can wholeheartedly recommend it to those who have yet to see it. The subject matter might drive some away, but if you give it a chance, it just might win you over like it did me. There are many positives the show has to offer. The acting and writing are all top notch. There’s tons of nudity, but it never feel gratuitous and the actors all show comfort with the nudity level that it’s never awkward. The characters are rich and compelling and the storylines are intriguing without feeling melodramatic. If there’s one nit to pick it’s that sometimes the show stretches itself a bit too thin. I mean this in that the focus to secondary characters can take us away from our main characters, but that’s only a minor complaint as it doesn’t stay with them too long. It’s not that the other characters aren’t interesting, but they’re just not as fun to watch as the lead characters. Overall, I’m glad I had the opportunity to check out the show as it stayed with me and kept me involved.
Video: How’s it look?
The episodes are presented in a 1.78:1 ratio with AVC encoded transfers. Set in the 1950’s-60, the show has a lot to offer in terms of visuals. Thankfully the transfer present the show strongly and with rich detail. Indoor and outdoor scenes display sharp details as well as textures on clothing and interiors as well. The classic cars are pretty to look at and flesh tones and features are all accurate looking and not oversaturated. Only occasional grain appears, but it’s never problematic. There’s a consistent quality to the episodes from the first season to the last. Fans should be pleased with the results here.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The DTS HD tracks are also of high quality. This is mostly a dialogue driven show, but there’s a clarity that I expect and love. We hear plenty of great music in the show that brings us into this era as well. There is a bit of action at times and arguments amongst the characters, all adding to the experience. Like the transfers, the audio should impress.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Audio Commentary – This is just for the pilot episode, but features Actor Michael Sheen, Lizzy Caplan, Caitlin Fitzgerald and Teddy Sears along with executive producers Michelle Ashford and Sarah Timberman.
Making Masters of Sex – A pretty good overview of the show and how it came to fruition. We get a look at the cast as well as other topics.
Deleted Scenes – The first 2 seasons contain various deleted scenes for certain episodes.
A Masterful Portrayal – This looks at Sheen’s performance as Dr. Masters.
Ahead of Her Time – We get a brief look at Caplan’s role as Dr. Johnson.
The Real Masters – Biographer Thomas Maier gives us a look at the real Dr. Masters.
Surprising Facts About Sex – This is a brief overview of Masters and Johnson’s research.
The History of Sex – A solid look at the era and other issues of this era.
The Women of Sex – Pretty self-explanatory look at the women featured in the show.
The Men of Sex – Another look at the men featured on the show, roundtable style.
The Bottom Line
First things first: I really enjoyed this show and recommend it to those even remotely curious about it. My review can hardly touch on just everything that the show has to offer. For me, it’s a show that I watched and enjoyed, but I don’t feel the need to revisit. So while I recommend the show, owning it is entirely up to you. The good news is that this Blu-Ray set is first-rate. We get solid A/V specs and enough extras to justify the purchase if you feel the need to simply rewatch it or just have it in your collection. Whether you rent it, stream it or purchase it, it’s a great show that held my interest throughout.