Sunday, August 31, 2014

NYT's Maureen Dowd Focuses on "Mesmerizing" Masters of Sex and Actor Michael Sheen Over a Cup of Tea. A Labor Day Treat!

NYT columnist extraordinaire Maureen Dowd sat for a bit of tea with actor Michael Sheen and then wrote this column about the "mesmerizing" Masters of Sex and the star's view of sex, love and all those other things that spice up life.  Here's a snippet:
“All you have to do is talk to someone about their sex life to get a sense of how untrustworthy each of us might be about that,” Sheen said dryly.
In the show, Masters suggests to Johnson that they have research sex, noting that “we get the benefit of interpreting the data first hand.” Later, he tells her it’s a condition of her job. But Sheen and the alluring Lizzy Caplan, plus the writing, soften the nasty coercion on his part and coldblooded careerism on hers with a subtext of mutual attraction.
Late in life, Johnson told the biographer Thomas Maier that she had never desired Masters, only the job.
“It is sexual harassment,” Sheen said, but “they both have different agendas. Conscious and unconscious motivations are something we’re playing with in the show.”
He also suggests that there may have been “a bit of revisionism” on Johnson’s part, colored by the fact that Masters seemed to prefer his Doberman pinschers and left her after 22 years for a woman he’d had a crush on in college.
“While at the beginning he was quite intimidating and wasn’t an easily likable man and Virginia was the one people warmed to, by the end, it had completely reversed,” Sheen said.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Stephen Colbert Interviews "Masters of Sex" Michael Sheen: Truthiness Meets "Mr. Fancy Pants"

Stephen Colbert talks about "Masters of Sex" with Michael Sheen. Some lighting-fast repartee, with Michael getting in some faster quips than the master (Colbert). Check it out!
And here's Michael Sheen on CBS Morning News:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

"Masters of Sex" Wins 1st Emmy with Allison Janney; Metacritic Selects "Masters of Sex" as one of top Book-to-TV Series All-time

Masters of Sex is now an Emmy winner. Overall, the show was nominated for five different Emmy awards for its first season, and last night Allison Janney won for Outstanding Guest Actress. Congratulations to Allison for a wonderful performance!In other good news, "Masters of Sex" is #3 on the list of all-time books to TV series, according to Metacritic. Here's what they said: The highest-scoring Showtime series to date not named HomelandMasters of Sex is, like the two shows above, also based on a nonfiction book, this one a lengthy biography of human sexuality pioneers William Masters and Virginia Johnson by journalist Thomas Maier. Adapting a book that spans many decades is no easy task, but writer/producer Michelle Ashford (The Pacific,Boomtown) seems to have pulled it off; the show's currently airing second season has collected even better reviews than its debut season. And if you want author Maier's take on how the series compares to his book, check out critic Alan Sepinwall's weekly episode recaps; Maier (who also serves as a producer on the program) usually offers his insight in the comments section.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Terms of Endearment: What were the Conditions Between Masters and Johnson? Read the Book Excerpt and Listen to the Actors Playing Them

What were the terms and conditions when the sexual relationship between Masters and Johnson began? Read the excerpt from "Masters of Sex" about the real-life Bill and Gini, and then listen to what Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen say about their roles in last week's episode.

Here's a short excerpt from the book on this issue:
     One night, after the last research subjects departed, Dr. Masters and his female associate disrobed and, atop the single bed with green hospital sheets, acted out the physiology responses they were seeking to comprehend. Not yet thirty-five, Virginia Johnson could not have been more appealing to her boss—a sensuous woman full of verve and emancipation, yet attentive to every detail and eager to please at the office. With his little bow tie unraveled and his starched white shirt undone, Bill possessed the stout body of a former athlete who had kept himself in shape over the years. In this moment, he knew exactly what he wanted to do and did it with authority. With their clothes off, he instructed Gini to remain as professional as possible. These encounters should not venture beyond the scope of their scientific inquiry, not into the messy realms of emotion. By cooperating as his assistant, by having sex with him for purely clinical reasons, Gini once again confirmed her commitment to their approach. Or so Bill contended. “We weren’t emotionally tied at all,” she recalled. “He was building
me into this ‘team’ person, into this research person. That’s essentially what he presented.”
      At Maternity Hospital, colleagues suspected Masters might be having an affair with his aide, just as other doctors did with their nurses, but no one uttered such provocations within earshot. Some assumed Gini to be the instigator, as a divorced woman scheming to lasso a hotshot doctor. Others who knew them well said the nature of their work—observing hundreds of sexual intercourses in the lab—overwhelmed them and any pretense of objectivity. Dr. Roger Crenshaw, a psychiatrist who later teamed with his therapist wife at the clinic, heard what happened from his private conversations with Bill. “As a therapist, the only time I saw a patient nude was during the physical examination, but the circumstances that surrounded Bill and Virginia’s beginning relationship involved fairly explicit sex, and I can see where a lot of libidinal energy may have gotten released,” he explained. Dr. Mike Freiman, as friendly with Gini as he was with Bill, said the sexual energy from their experiments drove them together. “It was like watching a stallion and a mare—it gets everybody excited,” he stated. “They were dealing with very exciting things. There was no question that they were emotionally and sexually involved early on.” If Freiman needed any confirmation, he discovered it on his own wedding day in early 1961. After the ceremony, Mike and his bride stayed at a motel near the hospital before they left for their honeymoon. The Freimans went to dinner in an upstairs restaurant and after a couple
of drinks made their way to their room on the first floor. As he fiddled with his key, Mike heard a noise nearby—and Bill and Gini suddenly emerged from the room next door. But these assumptions and sightings didn’t explain the half of it. In the beginning, there wasn’t mutual consent between them,
and certainly not the provocateur role to Gini’s involvement that some male colleagues presumed. Instead there was a forced agreement that both were reluctant to admit. Their closest aide, Dr.
Robert C. Kolodny, who worked for two decades with them and coauthored several books and medical articles, considered writing a biography of them and asked extensively about the origins of
their partnership. Only after hours of conversation with Bill, whom he considered his mentor and friend—and after comparing it to Gini’s version—did Kolodny gain an understanding of what transpired.
     “Bill made it plain to her, fairly soon after she took the job, that being sexual partners was a requirement,” Kolodny said. “Bill saw it as a consensual involvement. He indicated that he had been the instigator and Gini agreed with that. But Gini perceived it, as she put it, as a matter-of-fact, expected part of the job. And my suspicion is that had she not gone along with this, she might not have been employed too much later. I bet she knew that and sensed that.” 
     Bill envisioned a “blueprint,” as Kolodny called it, in which his female associate would engage in sex with him, as a way of further comprehending all that they were learning through observation. He exacted this demand early in their working relationship, when Gini was still essentially a nondescript figure hired off the street. For all of her insights, she was still no more than a friendly paper-pusher with some typing skills, with whom he treaded lightly until he was sure she would go along with his plans. If Gini “opted out of that,” Kolodny realized she “would have been replaced.” In the late 1950s, “that early in their work together, she had made no significant contributions,” Kolodny explained. The sense of Gini’s invaluableness to their work arrived only after this private pact was reached. Bill believed, naively and erroneously, that his concupiscence could be contained to the lab. Despite their working dinners, Bill offered no pretense at romance. He seemed oblivious to his own wedding vows with Libby, and to Gini’s courtship with Judge Noah Weinstein. No one would ever find out, he urged, if
they kept this secret between themselves. “I don’t think either one of them felt it was a romance,” Kolodny said of their beginning. “It was pretty pure sex.”
     Decades later, Gini paused for a moment when told of Kolodny’s recollection, as if she’d heard an unpleasant truth. Because this version varied so much from the official version Masters and Johnson portrayed to the world, because it revealed so much more than she’d ever said before to friendly questioners, or to the version she had told her children and her parents, or tried to convince
herself, Gini seemed taken aback. Kolodny was Bill’s friend, someone with whom she didn’t always agree and often argued. The emotion in her voice revealed a longtime hurt. 
     “Bill did it all—I didn’t want him,” she insisted about his subtle depredation, her normally modulated voice tinged with anger about the origins of their sexual relations. 
     “I had a job and I wanted it.”

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Authors Night in the Hamptons and Guest at Lovely Dinner to Talk about Masters of Sex

Hamptons Magazine photo of paperback writer
The 10th annual Authors Night celebration was held Saturday Aug 9 -- the birthday of my dear wife Joyce -- and I was invited as an honored guest to a lovely dinner at the home of Hampton Magazine's Michael Braverman. Here's some photos of the day and the excerpt from the magazine:

Novelist Alice McDermott and our boy

Hard as it is to believe, Thomas Maier says that being the author of the 2009 best seller Masters of Sex: The Life & Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love, which details the explosive but sad lives of sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson and is the basis for the Emmy-nominated TV series on Showtime that began its second season in mid-July, hasn’t changed his life much. He’s still an investigative reporter—now in his 31st year at Newsday—and proud of it. He admits to one material change in circumstances: Instead of writing his books in his unheated basement in East Northport, he now works in a heated bedroom upstairs.
Masters of Sex grew out of the profile he was drafted to write for Newsday the day William Masters retired. Both researchers were very secretive at the time, but when Masters died in 2001, he went back to Johnson and “won her confidence,” partly by sending her a copy of his 1998 book, Dr. Spock: An American Life. “She knew Jane Spock,” Maier says, adding “once she started talking, she was a chatterbox.”
Every Sunday night at 10 this summer
Pleased as he is with the TV show—whose pilot was partially filmed on Long Island, including the mansion in Sands Point Preserve once owned by industrialist Daniel Guggenheim—Maier is on to new things. He says that Sony bought the rights to his 1994 book, Newhouse: All the Glitter, Power & Glory of America’s Richest Media Empire and the Secretive Man Behind It, and he hopes that will become a scripted TV series, too. And his next book, When Lions Roar: The Churchills and the Kennedys, an examination of the deep personal and public links between the two families, is set to be published in October. “There will be real news in that,” Maier says, refusing to provide even a clue now. “There are 1,700 footnotes.”


New Yorker Video Highlights "Masters of Sex" -- Emily Nussbaum Compares MoS with other historical dramas in a new review.

The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum provides some insights about this season's "Masters of Sex" in  this video and also in this week's magazine. Emily didn't seem to know that Ep. 3's "Fight" drew heavily from the book with Bill's recollections of his father and about Virginia's long-lost romance with an Army Capt. - part of the emotional underpinnings of that episode. Nevertheless, we're thrilled with The New Yorker's high praise for the show and all that Michelle Ashford and Co. are attempting to achieve in adapting the book into a drama. I'm constantly amazed how much of the non-fiction biography Michelle has weaved into each episode, perhaps more so than any drama I've ever seen based on a book.
Here's The New Yorker's terrific video with Emily Nussbaum, one of the most literate and thoughtful critics out there.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

"Fight" Episode Roots in Book: Story of Virginia Johnson and the Army Captain: Read The Excerpt

The highly-praised "Fight" episode in Season 2 of "Masters of Sex" draws substantially from my book. Bill Masters' recollection of his difficult relationship with his father is one example, and readers can look up the chapter entitled "Never Going Home" to learn more.
But as a public service (sort of), here is an excerpt from the book about the Army captain that the character of Virginia Johnson played by the Emmy nominated actress Lizzy Caplan, talks about at length during the "Fight" episode. In doing the research for the book, I distinctly remember the emotional tone in the real-life Virginia's voice as she recalled this lost love from her youth.

Here's the excerpt from page 20-21:

With her flings and passing affairs, Virginia always managed
to get away unscathed. She never suffered a broken heart,
not the way Red Foley or Hank Williams crooned in their lovesick
songs. Never did she feel that way until she went out with an Army
captain following a show at Fort Leonard Wood. A stagehand told
her of a knock at the dressing room door. There she found the handsome
captain she’d met earlier at a swimming pool. The fragility
of life in wartime, the passion of youth, and the intimate dancing
to slow melodies at the Army base added intensity to their romance.
“The love of your life always has to do with a time and place more
than anything else,” she later explained. “The Army captain would
have been mine, I suppose.” In him, Virginia found a man as smart
and assertive as he was physically attractive, someone who was
her contemporary but possessed a wisdom about the world that
she admired, even coveted. “He was twenty-six and I wasn’t much
over eighteen,” she said. “He was just a magician in terms of handling
Over that summer, the two became inseparable. Though they
were brought together by physical attraction, the Army captain
kept enough presence of mind to let Virginia know of another girl
in his life. “When we first met, I knew he was engaged because
he said, ‘You remind me of my fiancée,’” she remembered. “But he
continued to go out with me.” Virginia ignored this telling aside,
convinced her own love and passion for him would be enough. She
became part of the Army captain’s social circle at the base, embraced
by his best soldier friends and their wives and girlfriends.
The Army captain’s closest pal at Fort Leonard Wood was a slightly
older man of the same rank, with a wife and small child, who managed
to keep a car on the base. He let the Army captain and Virginia
borrow it whenever they wanted. On long drives throughout
the Missouri countryside, they parked under the trees and made
love to each other with abandon. Certain of her feelings, Virginia
convinced him one day to drive about seventy miles to Springfield
so she could introduce him to her parents and relatives. “We were
together constantly—we went everywhere and did everything,” she
recalled. “I took him home to my grandmother’s and the family
met him.”
After nearly a year, Virginia knew she wanted to marry the
Army captain. She had forgotten their fleeting conversation about
his fiancée from a wealthy family back home. But one evening, the 
Army captain’s demeanor, once so open and loving, turned sullen
and contrite. He had trouble getting out the words he intended to
say. “He could hardly tell me that he was going to be married,”
Virginia recalled. “When he wound up marrying his fiancée, he
broke me into small pieces.”
As the news spread on the Army base, their circle of friends
seemed almost as crestfallen as Virginia. “They rallied around me
and got so angry with him,” she remembered. “They were absolutely
shaken that he had done this—stayed with me all this time
and then out of the blue, married.” Wives and girlfriends, perhaps
mindful of their own vulnerable relationships in wartime, commiserated
with Virginia. The captain’s best friend—the married
one who lent his car to them—kept telling her, “I’ll marry you, I’ll
marry you!” as if applying some emotional balm to remove the
sting. Soon afterward, another couple in their circle married, and
Virginia went to the wedding alone with a Brownie camera. After
the ceremony, she stood outside the old Anglican chapel as the
crowd threw rice at the happy couple. “I was taking pictures there
and someone took the camera from my hand and took a picture
of me. And I looked like my family had just died. In the photo, I
looked so incredibly sad. I just hadn’t recovered. I was just devastated.”
Virginia stumbled across the faded photograph of herself
later in a forgotten album. “That may be why I never married anybody
I really cared about,” she reflected about the Army captain,
“because there was an echo of being deserted, of being left and rejected.
Actually I wasn’t rejected. Not exactly. Because I was never
in the picture, really.”
Afraid of being hurt again in the same way, Virginia entered
into a series of relationships over the next few years that could be
intimate and sexual, but never carried the same hope of lasting
love. She learned to separate her feelings of love and desire, both
with the men she dated and with those she ultimately married. “I
had an active interest in sex,” she explained, “but never particularly
to the men I was involved with.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What I Did On My Summer Vacation: Visiting "Masters of Sex" in Hollywood

Hollywood is grand this time of year. The Emmy nominations are out, and "Masters of Sex" has five of them, including best actress for Lizzy Caplan. Last week, I spent five days in Los Angeles on the set of "Masters of Set", attending parties, and chatting with Michael Sheen on location. One of these days I'm going to get my photo taken with Michelle Ashford and Sarah Timberman, the two executive producers, who were so busy I couldn't stop them. Everyone was in good spirits, though tired, as the last days of shooting Season 2 were winding up. Here some of the photos from my trip.

Michael Sheen on location and in costume.
Check out the book in author Thomas Maier's hand.
Lizzy Caplan in costume as "Virginia Johnson" with author Thomas Maier

Costume expert Ane Crabtree
Amy Lippman, exec producer
and director Adam Bernstein

Teddy Sears and author Thomas Maier
at "Masters of Sex" party for press at Sony lot

Lizzy Caplan and some coffee
My son Reade Maier stands in front of Dr. Masters' MG car.

Chatting with Lizzy Caplan

Director Michael Apted at "Masters of Sex" press party

Outside the Masters of Sex Writer's Room
with son Reade Maier

Typing up "Masters of Sex"?

Reade Maier and Angela, Lizzy's stand-in

Author Thomas Maier at Dr. Masters' desk.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross Interview About "Masters of Sex" -- A Primer for Season 2 Starting Sunday July 13

Just in time for Season 2, listen to an hour-long "Fresh Air" program devoted to "Masters of Sex", as host Terry Gross interviews Thomas Maier, the author of the book of the same name that is the basis for the Showtime series. Maier is also a producer of the show. Here's a short snippet of the "Fresh Air" introduction: 

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. The new Showtime series "Masters of Sex" that premieres in September is based on the book about sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson by my guest Thomas Maier, who is also a consultant for the series. Masters and Johnson became famous in the 1960s for their groundbreaking and controversial research into the physiology of human sexuality.
Instead of just asking people about their sex lives, Masters and Johnson actually observed volunteers engaging in self-stimulation and sexual intercourse. Changes throughout their bodies during arousal were measured with medical equipment. Until Maier's book, Masters and Johnson research techniques remained shrouded in secrecy, but he was able to uncover information through interviews with their friends, family and former colleagues, as well as extensive interviews with Johnson. She died last week at the age of 88.
Maier's book, "Masters of Sex," which was first published in 2009, has just been published in a new paperback edition. Maier is an investigative reporter for Newsday and is also the author of a book about the famous pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock. We're going to be talking about sex research and getting into birds and bees territory you may not have explained to your children. So parents, use your discretion.
Let's start with a clip from the pilot of the Showtime adaptation of "Masters of Sex" starring Michael Sheen as William Masters and Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson. In this scene, Masters has asked Johnson to assist him with his research. She's been working as a secretary in his OB/GYN office, knows nothing about his sex research and is surprised to see him carrying a handful of girlie magazines.

Watch "The Making of 'Masters of Sex'" -- Now for Free on Amazon or Part of the Sony Season DVD/Blu-Ray package

Michelle Ashford
Sarah Timberman
 Hope everyone gets to watch "The Making of Masters of Sex", either by buying the new DVD/Blu-Ray of Season 1, or by going to Amazon and playing this short documentary for FREE. In it, exec producers Sarah Timberman and Showrunner Michelle Ashford explain how this show was developed from my biography of Masters and Johnson. Both these terrifically talented execs carefully put the whole series together under the auspices of Sony Pictures Television and its home network of Showtime. I'm very proud of my association with them and I think all of the accolades and hosannas being tossed at the show, as it begins its second season, are because of their hard work and tremendous insights. Congrats to these two wonderful execs and many thanks for your kind words about my book.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

FIVE Emmy Nominations! Congrats to Lizzy Caplan, Beau Bridges, Allison Janney and Masters of Sex art and title experts.

Lizzy Caplan with author Thomas Maier on the set of
"Masters of Sex" during filming of the pilot in NYC.

Congratulations to Lizzy Caplan on her richly-deserved Emmy nomination for Best Actress. Kudos to Beau Bridges and Allison Janney for their guest star nominations! 
Masters of Sex earned five nominations for its premiere season including nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Lizzy Caplan, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for Beau Bridges and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for Allison Janney
Season one of MASTERS OF SEX received both Golden Globe® and WGA nominations and was honored as one of AFI's Top Ten Television Programs of the Year.  Starring Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as real-life pioneers of human sexuality, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the series chronicles their unusual lives, romance and pop culture trajectory. Their research touched off the sexual revolution and took them from a mid-western teaching hospital in St. Louis to the cover of Time magazine. The series is an adaptation of Thomas Maier's book Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, The Couple Who Taught America How To Love. Caitlin FitzgeraldTeddy Sears and Annaleigh Ashford also star.  MASTERS OF SEX was developed for television by Michelle Ashford (The Pacific) who also serves as an executive producer.   In addition, the series is executive produced by Carl BeverlySarah TimbermanJudith Verno and Amy Lippman.  Michael Dinner, Michael Sheen,Tammy Rosen and Thomas Maier serve as producers.  MASTERS OF SEX is produced by Sony Pictures Television.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 Features "Masters of Sex" with Newly Discovered Photos of Masters & Johnson; Read Original Photo Essay about MoS and TV's Culture Today

Ahead of the July 13 Season 2 premiere of Showtime’s Masters of Sex, presents an exclusive essay by Thomas Maier, the author of the book on which the series is based, looking back at the revolutionary work of Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson—as well as their intensely fraught personal relationship—through the lens of LIFE photos from 1966.Read More at LIFE.COM.

Read more: The Real ‘Masters of Sex’: LIFE With Masters and Johnson, 1966 |

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Real-Life Masters and Johnson Come to Life! On July 9, Life.Com will offer several photos of the sex researcher as well an an original essay adapted from my book

The real Masters and Johnson are coming to Life. 
   On July 9, plans to run a photo essay featuring the magazine's original 1960s pictures of the real-life researchers, William Masters and Virginia Johnson -- including several previously-unpublished candid photos of the two never seen before.
    These Life photos were taken for a 1966 feature published just as Masters and Johnson became famous. I'm writing an original 1,200-word essay to go with these photos. It talks about Masters and Johnson as portrayed in my book and, of course, our wonderful Showtime series created by Michelle Ashford. 

              *       *      *
This time last year, when Virginia Johnson passed away at age 88, I spoke with CBS News about her legacy. It would be only a few weeks before the Showtimes series debuted. Here's the segment introduced by Charlie Rose.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

"Masters of Sex" Actress Allison Janney Wins Award For Role In TV Series Based on The Book

Allison Janney, Joyce P. McGurrin and author
on the set of "Masters of Sex" during filming of Season 1
Congrats to Allison for a great performance!

(CNN) -- Allison Janney doubled down at the 2014 Critics' Choice Television Awards. The actress was the only performer to score two wins, one for guest performer on Showtime's "Masters of Sex" and in a tie for supporting comedy actress for CBS' "Mom," which she shared with Kate Mulgrew from Netflix's "Orange Is the New Black." The fourth annual ceremony was held Thursday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, and honored the best in television.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Free Book Giveaway For "When Lions Roar: The Churchills and the Kennedys" -- Enter To Win in GoodReads Contest, Deadline June 22

Click HERE To Enter Contest for Free Copy

   Time is running short to enter to win "When Lions Roar: The Churchills and the Kennedys" as part of the Goodreads promotional contest ending June 22. (Hope all my friends and fans of "Masters of Sex", my last book made into a Showtime series of the same name, like this new book, full action and remarkable characters at crucial time in the 20th Century).

Here some of the recommendations:
"Many great personalities appear to history in cutout. Thomas Maier reminds us that few of them succeed outside an intricate network of public and private relationships, beginning with their families. In weaving together the stories of these two, Maier has made the best sort of collective biography: expansive, intimate, captivating and, evidently, a labor of love." -Ken Weisbrode, author of Churchill and the King: The Wartime Alliance of Winston Churchill and George VI

"A highly enjoyable and expertly-told account of two of the most important political families of the twentieth century." -Richard Toye, author of Churchill's Empire: The World that Made Him and the World He Made"Thomas Maier has achieved the remarkable feat of offering rich new insight into the lives, achievements, and failures of two famous families, the Churchills and the Kennedys. If you think you know everything there is to know about the Churchills and Kennedys, you're wrong. Maier examines his subjects as no biographer has before. It is a monumental accomplishment." -Terry Golway, author of The Irish in America andMachine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics

Thursday, June 5, 2014

In New EW Cover, Art Imitates Life on the Couch! New Sony BluRay/DVD of Season 1 Appears This Month, with Doc about the Book turned into TV series; Season 2 debuts July 13

You gotta love how much this terrific new cover from Entertainment Weekly, featuring actors Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, resembles this photo of the real Masters and Johnson from my book. Ok, Bill and Virginia are not locked in an embrace but they do look like they're sitting on the same 1950s couch. And in both renditions, Dr. Masters is wearing his trademark bow-tie! Of course, Lizzy does a great job of channelling her inner Virginia Johnson, too!

... And let's not forget, the author gets to chat it up about Masters of Sex in the new Sony Blu-Ray Package released June 24 by Sony. Here's what the press release says:

Blu-ray Exclusive Special Features:
The Real Masters: A Conversation with Thomas Maier 
-Masters of Sex is based upon the biography of Masters and Johnson by acclaimed biographer Thomas Maier. In this featurette, Maier shares some of the most amazing discoveries he made about the lives of Masters and Johnson while researching them for his book. Maier also talks about the extraordinary influence that Masters and Johnson have had on American culture in general.

Taken from:

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Watching Alan Sepinwall Watching "Masters of Sex" -- Recaps from Season 1 Recaps; Season Two Starts July 13

   With Season 2 of "Masters of Sex" starting Sunday July 13, I thought it might be fun to replay some of the Season 1 responses with Alan Sepinwall, one of America's top television critics, which appeared in his recaps on HITFLIX. Alan was encouraging the dialogue, so I usually wrote them quickly after watching each Sunday night's episodes last fall.
    Alan's essays on shows are always deep and thought-provoking, and it's been great fun to ruminate on some of these episodes and throw in my own two cents. Of course, as the author of Masters of Sex, I'm the biggest fan of the show. But I've tried to be as reflective as possible, hoping to add to the audience's enjoyment of the show. You be the judge. 
Here are some selections:

Review: 'Masters of Sex' - 'All Together Now':

This was the first episode I didn't watch in advance. But it was one where I was present for some of the filming, just like the pilot, so it was great fun to see the finished product tonight.
Last March, I was out in California on the set and watched some of the filming with my family. (For the record, only the PG-rated stuff: The scene with Bill talking to the young couple; also when Lizzy and Bill are getting dressed and he puts on his wedding).
Overall, Michelle Ashford does a fascinating job of weaving the stuff from my book into the television dramatic narrative. The scene with Ethan talking with Gini about her first lover -- Gordon Garrett -- was actually from the very opening of my book (Michelle started the pilot with the bordello scene with Bill timing the sexual response of a prostitute. Who knew Annabelle Ashford would be so funny in that role!). I made a lot of effort as an investigative reporter to find out the real name of Gordon Garrett. Virginia would only call him "the boy with fiery red hair" when we first talked about how she lost her virginity. It was the funeral home director of Golden City, Missouri who directed me to the Golden City high school yearbook which predicted Mary Virginia Eshelman (VJ) would someday marry Gordon Garrett. Even that story in VJ's life is very complicated! The Provost character played by Beau Bridges is a composite of some real-life chartacters, but Michelle adeptly adds the closeted gay factor that helps underline the sexually repression of that time. Similarly, the real-life character played by Teddy Sears was troubled by his own behavior when I interviewed him, so it's interesting to see how Michelle uses the psychiatrist (a Freudian no doubt!) for the same effect.
I always found the real-life triangle between Virginia and Bill and Libby the most fascinating because the two women were friendly, rather than rivalrous. There were always some of Libby's friends and family who felt Gini wanted to marry Bill from the outset, but the traditional home-wrecker label never really applied to her. The sexual dynamic between Masters and Johnson, at first most improper with his requirement that sex be part of the job, now is in another more ambiguous stage. And as the series progresses, it will change again and again.

As the show becomes more and more dramatic, I think this might be a good point to appreciate the use of comedy by Michelle Ashford and her writing team. What really marks Masters of Sex from any other drama series I've ever seen is the wide range of emotion, from the broad humor of the early episodes to the more heart-wrenching moments by actors like Allison Janney. Think of the range of emotions we've seen so far from Beau Bridges's character Provost Scully -- from the hilarious reaction shot when Virginia shows him the "Ulysses" contraption to his subtle reactions to the male prostitute, Bill's extortion and the complexity of his marriage. 
I always thought a light touch was essential at the very beginning of the series. Never leering or creepy or Benny Hill II, but rather something like John Madden's "Shakespeare in Love" or even the 1963 Oscar winner "Tom Jones." Part of the wit is also reflected in the quick sexy banter between Sheen and Caplan. I think Michelle Ashford's humor very much reflected my own similar attempts in the book. (The Sopranos is the only TV drama I can recall with such a use of humor). 
In these later episodes, we have seen a lot more human pathos and drama -- vulnerability of people trying to become parents, trying to figure out their sexual orientation, and most of all, engaged in an elusive search for love and understanding. Michelle has brought things a far distance -- and we can see the changes in virtually everyone, especially characters like Ethan and Scully. 
I can assure you that the relationship of Bill and Virginia -- like two dancers in the night -- will move back and forth, to and fro, much like their relationship did in real-life. Interestingly, this contrast between wit and drama comes to an apex in next week's finale. Perhaps the most amusing moment of unintended consequences occurs next week when Dr. Masters finally shows the faculty at Wash U what they've been up to late at night in the lab. But it also triggers some of the most dramatic tensions of the entire first season. I love how Michelle Ashford stretched this constant tension of comedy and tragedy in my book and how she made it all come alive! 


Review: 'Masters of Sex' - 'Phallic Victories'

I think it's always fun to compare the book and the show. The two travel on parallel paths telling the same story. A drama, by definition, is a work of fiction but Michelle Ashford has squeezed every drop out of my non-fiction bio of Bill and Gini. Each episode I'm delightfully surprised to find out something new, even in the retelling of scenes or ideas from my book. Two very different mediums, but it's fascinating to see how they can complement each other in this case.
As for the character of Virginia Johnson, she's more Scarlett O'Hara than a saint by nature, which of course is key to her great charm and why we as an audience root for her. In real-life, she could be manipulative and even cunning and I think as Season 2 unfolds, and as their story together gets even more complex, we'll see this more and more. 
I don't fret too much about openers, much like I don't care about the wrapping on a gift. But I admit I'm amused by the visual puns and really like the underlying Tango theme -- the music of love! It keeps playing in my head and sounds just like the tango music that Libby dances to with the handyman.

Review: 'Masters of Sex' - 'Brave New World':

Alan, I thought Allison Janney's character underlined the medical fact that many women never experience an orgasm, were often called "frigid" by their doctors and husbands, and often were profoundly ignorant about their own bodies. And we wonder why Tolstoy called it "the tragedy of the bedroom"!
Unlike shows obsessed with death and violence, “Masters of Sex” is about what D.H. Lawrence called “the life urge.” Throughout my book, and certainly as the Showtime series progresses, we learn Masters and Johnson’s study of sex was designed to help couples in a way that only medicine could do, but so often refused. The clinical “how to” documentation in their lab was aimed at understanding just how the bodies worked so they could come up with treatments and therapies that proved remarkably successful. The humor and joy of discovery is what enlivens the first episodes of Masters of Sex”, from that daunting “Ulysses” contraption and the youthful lust of young people dropping their pants in their name of science to their filmed “in living color” repudiation of Freud’s theories about female sexuality that forced a male-dominated society to rethink its views. The cavalcade of people who sought their aid -- seeking to heal their broken bedrooms or to have a child after years of trying -- comprised a veritable “Canterbury Tales” of sexual woes and problems. Unlike other 'anti-heroes', the pioneering risks by Masters and Johnson were usually meant to help others and not just themselves.
All this sex talk obscures, I might suggest, an even deeper truth about “Masters of Sex”. The heart of Masters and Johnson’s own story is about the elusiveness of love. For all of their studies about the “how to” of love, Bill and Gini had a hell of time letting each other know how they felt personally. There were fascinated with each other, like two batteries both attracting and repelling. Even after Johnson gained a co-byline with Masters on their heralded books, even after they shared equally in their worldwide fame and glory, and even after they married for twenty years, Masters and Johnson seemed clueless about love. Particularly in this sense, their story speaks to the state of relations between men and women in our modern era.


I think it's always fun to compare the book and the show. The two travel on parallel paths telling the same story. A drama, by definition, is a work of fiction but Michelle Ashford has squeezed every drop out of my non-fiction bio of Bill and Gini. Each episode I'm delightfully surprised to find out something new, even in the retelling of scenes or ideas from my book. Two very different mediums, but it's fascinating to see how they can complement each other in this case.
As for the character of Virginia Johnson, she's more Scarlett O'Hara than a saint by nature, which of course is key to her great charm and why we as an audience root for her. In real-life, she could be manipulative and even cunning and I think as Season 2 unfolds, and as their story together gets even more complex, we'll see this more and more. 
I don't fret too much about openers, much like I don't care about the wrapping on a gift. But I admit I'm amused by the visual puns and really like the underlying Tango theme -- the music of love! It keeps playing in my head and sounds just like the tango music that Libby dances to with the handyman.