It's an adage as old as the Internet itself: "If you're not watching [insert show title here], what the hell are you doing with your life?" This season, that honor goes the Showtime's brilliant Masters of Sex, a series that the network just picked up for a second season. Which is amazing! But so far, there's barely more than a million of you tuning in week in and week out — and that's just not at all what this honest-to-goodness, best show this season deserves. Yeah, I said it: best new show on TV this season. Boom! All the more reason for you to start tuning in immediately.
Set in the late 1950s, the series chronicles Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson's scientific work at Washington University in St. Louis that ultimately led to the sexual revolution. Which is to say, in many ways, it looks very intimately at the nuanced repression of female sexuality, as well as the overall mentality shown towards the female body and its autonomy, in the hands of women both self-aware and not. Something that feels awfully timely considering the current political climate.
This is a show that isn't just entertaining: It demands to be watched. It's a combination of excellent acting (Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen at their best), interesting (and yes, titillating) subject matter, compelling writing (seriously so so good), and solid storylines. Visually, it's beautiful, and sonically, it soars. (The inclusion of the James Blake track "Retrograde" at the end of episode two, "Race to Space" nearly caused me to fall over and die from joy.) It lives at the intersection of "everything good" and "TV magic" that should set the hearts and minds of small screen devotees aflame. So why in the ever-loving fuck aren't more of you watching it? What do I have to do to prove to you that it's a good show? Shouldn't my word be enough? Oh wait no — sorry, I forgot this is 2013 and everybody needs to be incentivized to do anything.
Well here's incentive enough for you: It's a boss-ass look at the world of sex and how women (all sorts of 'em!) and men deal with it. And react to it. And just generally mix themselves up with inaccurate information about it. Sure, it'd be like shooting fish in a barrel (and most effective with the dudebro set) if I were to go the easy route and say: there are boobies! Lots of them! And to be sure, there are lots of naked ladies and men on this show. Sexin' it up: sometimes solo, sometimes not. If that's your thing and you only watch TV to get your creepy lech on, then yeah — it's all there.
But the act itself isn't so much what the show is about — even if Dr. Masters is trying to figure out the science behind the act itself — but rather about the environment that evolves around sex. Chemistry. How we humans have transformed an animalistic act into so much more and what that's done to us humanfolk. See? I told you it rules. Creator Michelle Ashford has given us everything we've been dying for and then some.
And, in an age when many are screaming for complicated, interesting portrayals of women that are fully-realized characters rather than caricatures, Masters of Sex has that in spades. Not every woman on this show has The Magical Vagina Snare-Trap Secret® on lock, though: Just like in the real world! (Also what's a Magical Vagina Snare-Trap Secret?) Complicated women with complicated reasoning for who/what/where/when/why/why/how they do what (or who) they do? What?! Blasphemy!
Only by blasphemy, we mean awesome-y. Because Virginia Johnson is a woman who isn't afraid to take risks and knows what she wants. And Libby Masters (Bill's wife) is a 1950s housewife who self-blames like a champion. And Bill's mother has denial issues. And some young couples don't even actually really know what sex is. And some women are married to gay men, and others are gay and marrying straight men. Some are prostitutes, others are nurses, secretaries, study participants — and all of it shown in the beautiful technicolor that is complicated, real life.