Critical Condition: Masters of Sex

Masters of Sex (SoHo, 8.30 Sunday/encore  7.30 Tuesday)

“When the show began, it was an engaging, well-acted, reasonably believable dramatisation of the lives of sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson, played by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan.  But MoS has always had a degree of obviousness and coy humour — nowhere is this more clear than in its intentionally corny, double-entendre-joke opening-credits sequence. In the past, all this suggested it was a show perpetually in search of its own tone — or, more broadly speaking, its own overarching interpretation of the material it addressed. With the Season 4 premiere, it looked as though everyone involved had simply decided to go full-on soap-opera parody.” — Yahoo TV.

“In Sunday’s fourth-season opener, Hugh Hefner (John Gleeson Connolly) makes his entrance, and Libby finds empowerment — sort of — in a feminist group led by Anita (Alysia Reiner of Orange Is the New Black). Bill finds a guardian angel, Louise (Niecy Nash). The new season picks up in 1968 [and] is a critical one for Masters. Ratings are low and buzz has evaporated. At least the opener indicates this remains an intelligent series in search of complex answers to complicated questions, like ‘What is love?’ Or, Will Bill and Virginia ever find it — either together or apart? Bottom line: A lighter touch and a welcome one, too.” — Newsday.

“The show is trying new ways to establish itself as a period drama with something more unique to offer than the shock factor of mid-century sex norms that lost most of their impact late in Season 2. Now, Masters of Sex has the potential to put the characters though their own therapy, even if they’re not quite yet ready to take it seriously. Either way, this is the most entertaining the show has been in quite some time, but for reasons most would never have predicted.” — We Got This Covered.

Masters of Sex long ago departed from the real story to pursue its own, an exploration of different aspects of sex through modern eyes. There are obviously real historic markers to hit, but the strength of the series is the emotional clout. Dispassionate as Bill, Ginny and Libby play it at times when sex is involved, there are often heavy hangovers from their feelings and insecurities.” — LA Daily News.

Masters of Sex excels when Virginia Johnson and William Masters are together, so it’s to the season 4 premiere’s detriment that they share only a few mostly uneventful minutes on screen. Still, the duo deliver nuanced performances … The episode suffers from a lack of action — yes, that kind of action — and even Hefner is disappointingly mild. The show has the playboy; now all they need to do is figure out how to play.” — Entertainment Weekly.

“Sometimes, a once-great show can recover from a bad stretch and make me love it again (see Friday Night Lights from season 3 on). In other cases, once the spell is broken, no amount of improvement can bring back the magic … And there are still some trouble signs here … But with Sheen and Caplan, and the amount of historical material still to cover, I’m hopeful that Masters of Sex can at least be more watchable again, even if it doesn’t return to the creative heights of that first season.” — HitFix.

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