New Showtime Drama: “Masters of Sex”

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It’s 1957, and Americans are on the brink of exploring both their societal constraints and relationships with others in unprecedented ways. This is the heat before the women’s and civil rights movement: People experimenting with what it means to be alive. And there’s angst and there’s tensions and there’s, well, sex.

Cue Showtime’s drama “Masters of Sex” (premiering September 29th at 10PM ET/PT). Based off Thomas Maier’s homonymous biography, the series chronicles the rise and research of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, whose extensive studies pioneered modern understanding of human sexuality. As one might surmise — especially from Showtime network — the scientist’s steamy collaboration quickly turns romantic (they have great chemistry). Here, the audience is left wondering how this program will stray from the slew of archetypal overbearing-amounts-of-sex-guided-under-some-pseudo-serious-plotline.

Exploring sex and sexuality through the television medium is an advantageous attempt, although there’s merit behind the endeavor. In an interview with The New York Times, producer Sarah Timberman said the intrigue of Masters’ and Johnson’s story came to her because of its potential for drama.

“The mystery in their relationship speaks to the mystery they were trying to unravel,” Ms. Timberman said. “Where does sexuality figure into people’s lives and what’s its meaning, and can you disconnect it from emotion?”

Her question draws on human nature, and this prying attitude is what gives the show a shot at actually moving away from the pitfall of the porno-wannabe broadcast. Indeed, because “Masters of Sex” seeks to stretch the limits (apt considering its timeframe), the show has the capacity to be just about sex, deluged with lots of sex. Or else the researcher’s relationship could be a vessel to highlight the resistance that avant-garde thinking generates in society; the tensions that underlie true human passion and connection; the flawed supposition that love and romance are equitable. And then some sex, too.