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Hercules Calls Showtime’s
TV-MA Lizzy Caplan Vehicle
MASTERS OF SEX The Best
Of The New Fall Dramas!!

Published at: Sept. 29, 2013, 1:41 a.m. CST

I am – Hercules!!

A period drama from veteran TV writer-producer Michelle Ashford (“Boomtown,” “John Adams,” “The Pacific”), “Masters of Sex” follows pioneering 1950s sex scientists William Masters and Virginia Johnson.

Lizzy Caplan, the “Freaks & Geeks” and “Party Down” player who got plenty naked in some season-one “True Blood” sex scenes, returns to pay cable to play Johnson.

Masters is played by “Underworld” icon Michael Sheen, who has already played Tony Blair, David Frost and CyberBowie on the big screen. “Masters” is his first role as a series regular, though in 2010 he had a recurring role as Wesley Snipes on “30 Rock.”

I found the pilot, which has been available online for nearly two weeks, intriguing enough to instruct my DVR to acquire more of it. It reminds of a less-gay “Kinsey” (which followed sex researchers in the 1940s).

Showtime was smart to put the pilot online early. A lot of us are going to be watching “Breaking Bad” and “Talking Bad” during the “Masters” pay-cable premiere.

Time says:

... an absorbing, beautifully acted story about science, emerging feminism and American culture. …

Hitfix says:

... the best new show of the fall by a very long stretch. …

HuffPost TV says:

... may take a little while to seduce you, but it's worth the wait. …

The New York Times says:

... Like sex, “Masters of Sex” gets better as it goes on. But without an extra dimension, or a broader glimpse of a world beyond St. Louis, the series eventually grows a little claustrophobic and thin. …

The Los Angeles Times says:

... Without making any extraordinary claims for it, it is easy to watch and to recommend, mostly sweet-natured, with a host of well-shaded performances and almost nothing to insult your intelligence. …

The Chicago Sun-Times says:

... makes the most of its pay-TV platform by showing plenty of skin, but the sex scenes service a bigger story made all the more compelling by a couple of strong leads in Michael Sheen (“Frost/Nixon”) and Lizzy Caplan (“Party Down”). …

The San Francisco Chronicle says:

... The first two episodes of Showtime's "Masters of Sex" are good, but they don't begin to suggest how great the series becomes …

The Washington Post says:

... easily the only show in the fall crop of series that makes me want to watch more, more, more, and not just because it’s got sex in it. …

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:

... when "Masters of Sex" allows its focus to shift to the true masters -- the female characters -- the series shows promise that it could eventually develop into a can't-miss, smart, character-driven, period drama. …

The Boston Globe says:

... inviting, beautifully acted, and smartly written … the one new series with any true subtlety, with any thematic range and depth. Unlike the others, it has a human touch.

TV Guide says:

... There is no more fascinating, or entertaining, new series this fall season. …

USA Today says:

... an incredibly well-done, ideally cast TV series, anchored by full-bodied performances from Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as Masters and Johnson. This is career-defining work …

The Hollywood Reporter says:

... has depth of vision and plenty of dramatic material to delve into without taking the easy way out with a nipple and a romp every 10 minutes. … The casting is impeccable. Caplan is magnetic as Johnson, the single mother struggling to survive in the '60s, getting a secretarial job and, because she’s in tune with her own sexuality, effortlessly conveying to the more uptight Masters just what a woman wants. The actress navigates her sexuality with ease and allows the mental and emotional elements of the character to stay front and center (there’s already enough nudity and sex in the surrounding environs of the show, so this is a fine choice by both Ashford and Caplan). …

Variety says:

... If the “Doctor, heal thyself” part of that subplot feels a trifle stiff and familiar, writer Michelle Ashford for the most part keeps the narrative and relationships humming along, deftly weaving in humor and pathos as the various subplots progress, with Caplan (whose series resume includes “Party Down” and “The Class”) providing an intriguing, slightly mysterious emotional counterweight to Sheen’s tightly wound MD. …

10 p.m. Sunday. Showtime.

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