I started to watch it out of curiosity but it turned out to be way over my expectation: it is educational and eye-opening, but also reflecting and entertaining on a subject we are all intrigued with: sex - and its relation with love, marriage, family and work in a scientific way. What makes this series fascinating is that it is based on a true story which makes me respect the real characters even more.
Set in the 50s in the US, Dr William Masters (Michael Sheen), a fertility expert at the university hospital helps couples have babies though he has his own issues. His obsession is a study on human sexuality that collects statistical data of volunteers' physiological responses during various sexual acts. A serious man who seems unpleasant to work with, he is fortunate to have hired a former singer and single mother Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) who uses her excellent communication skills and charm to recruit volunteers for the pioneer study. Their collaboration yields remarkable results and complicated consequences.
As the drama unfolds, we discover more issues of Dr Masters with his wife as well as his working relationship with Virginia, amid other hairy situation related to the project, Dr Masters' work and his colleagues. Of course the core is the hard facts of the sex research which we take for granted today but groundbreaking in the 50s. That being said, it would very well complement the lame sex education we have in school even nowadays. Sex as a subject in this drama is not treated as porn, or something dirty, or something we would feel shameful about, or even exotic. Unlocking many myths, it shows reliable and predictable data on human responses to various stimuli. Ironically though, it is also correlated with many unhappy marriages and other adjustment problems.
I especially enjoy watching the emergent feminism bits: assertive Virginia outperforming many of her male colleagues and classmates while daring to speak her mind. At the same time, I also feel the pain, frustration and agony of Dr Lilian DePaul (Julianne Nicholson) when she has to work extremely hard but receives disproportional results in a male-dominated environment.
What's gripping about this drama is that other than the core sex research and feminism, we also explore certain interesting issues such as homosexuality, research, university funding, work, affairs, pregnancy, and of course love and romance. All these issues are still valid today.
The script and writing is superb where details are dotted early in the drama which would be picked up and developed fuller later. Seems rarely a single line is wasted. Film language is well used in conveying complex emotions and situations. Even the introduction is worth watching! The cast, particularly Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, is excellent with each of them shine in different ways. The artistic direction is authentic in portraying the 50s: the home and office deco, the cars, the fonts, even the hairstyles and fashion are eye-catching. How nostalgic!
Dr Masters and Mrs Johnson are exceptional and brave people. They might be unusual/complex and not particularly happy in their own lives but they surely help us enjoy our lives which seems to be the mission of every researcher. And for that let's give them a great applause.
A must watch.
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