Why you should watch Masters of Sex

Unlike most TV drama, More4's US import does good sex, says Ellie Walker-Arnott - as well as great drama about a fascinating period

Sex and TV have a bit of a dysfunctional relationship.


When it comes to telly, the ins and outs of that most primal pastime are all a bit hit and miss.

Either the camera pans away, the passion is entirely unconvincing or you’re left a blushing shadow of your former self, cringing on the couch.

We write about it, stress about it, think about it, do it. We actually need to do it in order to preserve the human race. So it’s surprising how poorly we translate the act to TV and film.

That much cannot be said, though, for Masters of Sex, More4’s American import, starring Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan. A show which tackles the subject (and the extensive amounts of necessary nudity) with a deft touch, even when said sex scene involves a huge glass phallus called Ulysses.  

Not that good sex is the only reason to tune in.

The glossy 1950s drama, which follows the life and works of pioneering sex scientists William Masters and Virginia Johnson, has many merits. Not least of which are its incredible female parts (get your mind out of the gutter), its spectacular opening credits, its pleasing period drama touches – vintage dresses and retro cocktail glasses aplenty – and the captivating chemistry between Sheen’s difficult and socially awkward Bill and Caplan’s feisty, forward-thinking Virginia.

The sexual themes at its heart reveal immeasurable amounts about a fascinating period for science and society.

And one that we don’t know that much about. A time when female desire and sexuality were either viewed as nonexistent or perverse. When a woman’s place was still primarily in the home. When the contraceptive pill was yet to be rolled out. When smear tests weren’t routine practice. And when homosexuality was a crime, punishable by a lengthy prison term, in every single American state. 

And a time that wasn’t actually that long ago. 

Masters of Sex is an insight into an era when hugely important social changes were beginning to happen, told through believable, big-hearted characters. A masterful adult drama, that has a whole lot more to it than sex.   


Masters of Sex returns tonight at 10:00pm on More 4