3 stars (out of 4)
Could this be the new Mad Men? Masters of Sex, Showtime's steamy new drama series, premiered with a bang — excuse the pun — on Sunday, Sept. 29. Michael Sheen stars as Ob-Gyn William Masters, who sets out in 1956 St. Louis to demystify sex by clinically monitoring subjects as they, er, get busy!
Evocative and provocative (research participants range from fellow doctors to prostitutes), this fact-based drama is most invigorating when showing how the findings helped ignite women's lib. Lizzy Caplan captivates as assistant Virginia Johnson, a firebrand single mom who enjoys sex with "friends." Much like Jon Hamm's character Don Draper on AMC's Mad Men, her brusque boss, though, is too cryptically drawn.
At the NYC premiere of Masters of Sex on Sept. 26, Sheen spoke to reporters about some of his character's flaws. "What you discover through exploring sex, and certainly the way Masters does, he wants to keep it very separate from emotional attraction. He just wants it to be the cold hard clinical fact because you can't separate it," the 44-year-old actor explained. "It's impossible because we as human beings can't be vulnerable with each other in any way, without it being linked to emotions. I think ultimately that's going to be the challenge."
In the premiere episode, Sheen shares an awkward sex scene with Caitlin FitzGerald, his character's wife Libby. Caplan, meanwhile, goes nude for a sex scene with Nicholas D'Agosto (coworker Ethan Haas).
The 31-year-old Mean Girls actress told reporters at the premiere that doesn't find the intimate scenes to be uncomfortable. "You think about it the night before for a bit, but I wouldn't say I get panicked or stressed out about it," she explained. And I knew going in what was going to be expected of me — maybe not all of what was going to be expected of me. But I knew if I was going to portray this woman in any sort of way that would make her proud and tell the story truthfully, I would have to check inhibitions at the door."
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