'Masters of Sex' Blu-ray and DVD: 'Ripped From the History Books' Saga of Mad Men Style Sex Researchers
The Mill Creek Entertainment separate August 21, 2018 DVD and Blu-ray complete series releases of the 2013-16 Showtime docudrama "Masters of Sex" coinciding with the (reviewed) Creek CS releases of the ABC sitcom "Happy Endings" provides Telephiles plenty of viewing pleasure while waiting for the new TV season.
Candor in the spirit of "Masters" is a factor in confessing that August being a particularly busy month for home-video releases and other factors are reasons for pulling out before completion in that this review is based on the first two of the of the four seasons in this series about real-life pioneer sex researchers Dr. Bill Masters and (twice-divorced) Mrs. Virginia Johnson. A desire to see what comes next is the excuse for not reading ahead, The real-life Masters and Johnson will agree that not providing complete satisfaction is a valid basis for complaint.
The fact that "Masters" gets 52 nominations and only 6 wins also reflects the spirit of this program about a highly passionate Masters striving to educate the public about physical aspects of sex and every factor that make it either satisfying or anti-climatic. The excuse this time is that the 100s of networks and overall good quality of television dramas the past few years make the competition much more stiff than back in the days of only three commercial broadcast options and PBS.
The majority of the wins deservedly go to future Oscar winner Allison Janney for her portrayal of Margaret Scully. The highly stressful marriage of Margaret to university official Barton Scully (Beau Bridges) makes that woman a '50s housewife a rebel with a very righteous cause.
Cursory on-line research shows that the series predictably stretches the truth regarding the main characters and their work but remains relatively true to the source material. An assumption is that the incidents in the lives of the supporting characters mostly are designed to entertain and to provide a context for depicting social issues of the day.
The pilot episode of "Masters" provides a strong sense of the direction of the show right from the beginning. The opening images are of inter-titles that state that Dr. Williams Masters (Michael Sheen) and former night-club singer Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) team up to publish a ground-breaking sex study in 1966. The next image is of an inter-title that establishes the year as 1956.
We first meet Masters working solo as a peeping Tom with a scientific purpose in a very basic version of his research. This leads to his using his clout (and a touch of blackmail) to move his work to Washington University Hospital where his literal day job includes star status. He initially hires Johnson as a secretary but more fully integrates her into the work and his life as the season progresses.
The S1 season finale predictably is climatic as an oblivious Masters presents his preliminary findings accompanied with intimate footage of study participants to his peers in 1957. Although not touched on very strongly, the perception of the film as lewd rather than as a valid element of scientific research relates to the issue of what is pornographic; part of the answer is that the determination must reflect the intent behind the making and the showing of the images. One spoiler is that this controversial production is not very erotic.
S2 begins with the fallout from the aforementioned presentation. Masters understandably considering the unwarranted outrage further enhances his inability to work and play well with others. This leads to the same conclusion that often applies regarding exceptionally intelligent and talented people that they do better working for themselves than being a wage slave.
The more unsettled nature of the study coincides both with a patient-of-the-week format and episodes with sometimes unduly preachy social issues. The first featured patient is a 20-something genuine nymphomaniac facing surgical sterilization. Many of the social issues revolve around race in the context of Masters working in a black hospital and his wife Libby having a young black woman help her around the house.
The season ends with CBS making a documentary about Masters and Johnson; related interesting aspects of this are dumbing down the material and the issue of the seven words that George Carlin informs the American public that cannot be said on television in any context. Modern relevancy is at "SNL" and "South Park" separately running with the concept when at least two of those words get approval for use over the air,
It is assumed that Season 3 addresses both the increased fame (or notoriety) associated with the documentary. We further can expect to see the personal relationship of our researchers evolve in the wake of Master showing Johnson great vulnerability in the second season. For her part, Mrs. Masters becoming a more liberated woman likely will impact the home front.
The more-than-three-hours of bonus material include behind-the-scenes features, deleted scenes, and "The History of Sex."