You’ve probably heard of Alfred Kinsey – bow-tied sexologist of the 1950s who revolutionised attitudes in America. But there was also William Masters, whose interest may have been a little more gynaecolgical but whose findings were no less explosive and personality no less peculiar.
In this series from Showtime, Michael Sheen takes the title role of Masters – an emotionally remote oddball with a loving wife and a keen new assistant (Lizzie Caplan) – who gets involved in an area where emotions run wild. Where his critics saw smut, he saw science, and ‘Masters of Sex’ carefully steers a path between the two – this is neither drily academic nor gratuitously dirty.
In spite of superb work from Sheen and Caplan, however, it occasionally lacks sparkle. Perhaps we’ve been spoilt by the glamour of ‘Mad Men’, for 1950s Missouri is inevitably a browner, duller place than Madison Avenue. But it’s sometimes hard to see where the dramatic tension will be mustered for a full series.