Monday, September 30, 2013

The New Yorker: From "Lively" Book Comes "a fizzy, ebullient quasi-historical romp" on TV

So even Eustace Tilley likes a little... Masters of Sex! Here's a little of what The New Yorker is saying about "Masters" and its impact.

“Masters of Sex,” a new hour-long drama on Showtime, is a fizzy, ebullient quasi-historical romp about the team of scientific pioneers who transformed American attitudes toward sex. But let’s not bury the lead: it’s also a serious turn-on.
For many viewers, this will be reason enough to watch, and there’s no shame in that game; this is adult cable television’s bread and butter, after all. Luckily, the show has an appeal beyond solid date-night viewing. “Masters of Sex” is based on Thomas Maier’s lively 2009 book of the same title, which tells the story of the rise of William Masters, a renegade who aimed to study sex in the lab, using human subjects. In nineteen-fifties St. Louis, where Masters was a prominent ob-gyn, this was an idea outrageous enough that he had to keep the project secret. Then, almost by chance, Masters found his soul mate. Virginia Johnson was a low-level secretary with no college degree, but she had social skills that the doctor lacked, in addition to a spitfire sexual iconoclasm. The two became intellectual partners and, later, lovers—though few knew about that part until many years afterward. Their best-selling 1966 study blasted through medical prudery and Freudian hornswoggle, explaining the physiology of orgasms, spreading the good word about healthy sexuality, and turning them into national celebrities.
This sounds like a romantic, upbeat story, and at times “Masters of Sex” does have a caper-plot element, as Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) flirts with doctors and nurses in the hospital, convincing them to “do it” for science. The sex scenes are graphic and often very funny, with classic Showtime panache, and they star people you definitely want to see having sex (or, in many cases, masturbating with sensors pasted to their skin, as the doctors murmur things like “Turgidity of nipples”). In its stylish pilot, “Masters of Sex” initially comes off a bit like “Mad Men with Benefits”: fetishistic fun with a historical pedigree. But over the first six episodes, the show deepens by degrees, becoming more poignant, and more surprising, too. It begins to acknowledge some of the unsettling implications of the doctor’s work, and lets characters who start as entertaining cartoons gain complexity, taking the plot in new directions.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Long and Short of It: All Tonight's Twitter Comments about Scenes from the Book Used in the "Masters of Sex" Pilot and Huge Thanks for Making It All Happen

Here's all my Twitter comments from tonight's premiere of "Masters of Sex" and where you can find the scenes from my biography that helped inform the dramatic series on Showtime. As you can see below, the exec producers went to great lengths to use my book as a wellspring of ideas. I am very grateful and very humbled to see the book take on a new and wonderful dramatic life of its own. Congratulations to Michelle, Sarah, John, Michael, Lizzy and everyone associated with this terrific ground-breaking dramatic production, and many thanks for showing so much respect to my book and kindness to me and my family.

  1. n  How the Book was turned into the Showtime series. #mastersofsex

    n  Inside Book: Drama is very true to life, using book as wellspring of ideas. Read non-fiction MOS for more. #mastersofsex

    n  Did you ever see Metacritic? So far Masters has 25 reviews, and no "negative" ones. #mastersofsex

    n  InsideBook: Tonite, I’m sharing book info used in pilot drama & where to find pages. #mastersofsex

    n  “Masters of Sex” pub in April 09. NYT review prompts Sony to buy rights and pitch to Showtime as drama. #mastersofsex

    n  Inside book: Ep 1 portrays StL’s Wash U filmed on Long Island’s Gold Coast estate. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Virginia Johnson: born Mary Virginia Eshelman, first fell in love in Golden City, Mo. p. 7 #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Masters relied on prostitutes early in sex experiment, p. 75-81. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Prostitute tells Masters ‘you need a female partner’, p. 82. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Masters was warned about sex study’s risks, p. 66-68. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Sheen’s soliloquy about history of sex, p. 70-73. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Masters tells chief he needs prostitutes for sex study, p. 74. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Wash U chief “turned deathly pale” about sex study, p. 75. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Virginia gets job at Wash U med school. P. 87. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Book starts at early ages before WWI, but pilot begins in 1956, p. 76. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Bill and Libby Masters lived in suburbs, he known as fertility expert, p. 57. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Masters lived in LaDue, Mo, but filmed near author in Huntington, LI. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Libby Masters wants to be ‘good wife’, more on her, p. 61-65. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Fertility expert Bill’s low-sperm count was big secret kept from most, p. 60. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Bill and Libby used his lab techniques to try and become pregnant, p. 59-60. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Virginia’s early marriages and love life, before Masters, p. 3-29. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: View photos of real Masters and Johnson, p. 202-3. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Preface quotes Cole Porter: ‘What is this thing called love?” p. xi. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Scene with Masters saving woman’s life in surgery, helping younger associates. P. 47-48. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Scene with plexiglass phallus. “Keep your eye some distance,” warns Masters, “or you’ll get poked,” p. 95-101. #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Virginia loves working with Bill in afterhours study, p. 91-94, #mastersofsex

    n  Book: Virginia learns having sex with Bill was part of her job, p. 126-28. #mastersofsex

    n  That’s all the tweeting for me tonite. Be sure to read the book if you like the show! #mastersofsex

Inside "Masters of Sex": How The Book was Turned into Showtime Series

Tonight's premiere of "Masters of Sex" on Showtime is very true to life in its adaption of my non-fiction biography of Masters and Johnson. To learn more, please pick up a copy of the book. You click above to order from Amazon or at any local bookstore. You can also learn a lot about "Masters of Sex" -- the TV show and the book -- from reading the dispatches on this website below.

Friday, September 27, 2013

All The News That's Fit To Print ... and "Masters of Sex" Too!

"It’s an extraordinary tale - stirring, dramatic, wonderfully funny, albeit in a wholly inadvertent sort of way, and ultimately tragic.
Thomas Maier’s account is as thorough as it’s briskly paced. Full of shrewdness and sympathy, it also vividly evokes the spirit of the times.
But perhaps most importantly of all, he’s nailed the central paradox that lies at the heart of the story. Masters of sex they may have been, yet in every other respect Masters and Johnson were hopelessly, almost childishly, na├»ve." 

TIME MAGAZINE CALLS MASTERS OF SEX: "THE BEST NEW SHOW OF THE FALL" with its critic adding: "Masters of Sex is nuanced, intelligently acted, and swellegantly directed, and I highly recommend it."

SLATE MAGAZINE calls MOS "The Best New Show on TV" with the funniest opening sentence of any review I've read so far.

TIME OUT CHICAGO likes it -- "Fall's best new show" -- based on the book by an old Sun-Timeser. 

THE ATLANTIC is very generous in its praise of the show...

   Michael Sheen compares "Masters of Sex" to "Hamlet" (well, sort of)...

 ... And The New York Times was just ok (Metacritic called it a "Positive" review). Not to quibble, but somehow the reviewer doesn't seem to know the Oxford University Dictionary definition of a drama. ("DRAMA -- the general term for performances in which actors impersonate the actions and speech of fictional or historical characters (or non‐human entities) for the entertainment of an audience, either on a stage or by means of a broadcast"). Showtime says "Masters of Sex" is a drama created by Michelle Ashford, adapted from my book but nit-picks on "inaccuracies" as if the show is a documentary. Duh! This is one of those cases where viewers are a lot smarter than the reviewers. 
    Nevertheless, we love the wisdom of The NY Times' daily reviewer Dwight Garner. Without that review, no one is coming around making my book into TV show!
     And Showtime wasn't too upset. It showered thousands of dollars in online ads to "SEX" up the front page of the Grey Old Lady today. The old girl has never looked so good!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"The View" Upon Which The Critics Agree: Anti-Heroes Are Dead, Long Live Love and "Masters of Sex"!

Put away the baseball bats, the carving knives, the terrorist bombs and the meth labs. No more deathly  stares from ad men selling cancer-causing cigarettes, or suburban mobsters rubbing out competitors in the name of their family. 
After a decade of violence and death, the so-called "golden age of television" is hopefully entering a new phase, one that is pioneered by "Masters of Sex" with a refreshingly new approach to story-telling that relies on humor, real-life drama and some good old Midwestern sex to tell a tale that is eternal. 

That was part of the message expressed today by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan during their appearance on ABC's "The View" (host Barbara Walters interviewed the real Masters and Johnson on the "Today" show back in the 1970s), and these sentiments are reflected in the flurry of rave reviews that the show is getting.

In the A.V. Club, which calls Masters of Sex "the best new show of the fall season, hands down," critic Todd VanDerWerff writes: 
 "There have been so many shows fundamentally about death these past 14 years, but here is one about life, about birth, about love and, yes, about sex. Masters Of Sex’s greatest triumph is that it makes all of those subjects feel as vital as they do to those who live through them, which is to say everyone."

On the Indiewire website, critic Alyssa Rosenberg observed that "while Masters of Sex is refreshing because it's part of a new crop of prestige cable dramas that focus on tough, intriguing young women, including The Americans' Soviet spy Elizabeth Jennings, Homeland's Carrie Mathison, andThe Bridge's Sonya Cross instead of middle-aged men with criminal careers, its specific setting and subject--sex research--make it something particularly special. Instead of giving us a female character who mirrors men, Virginia Johnson's very much a woman. And the choices she makes are a reminder that as easy as it is for men to waltz past laws and standards of decent behavior and still keep an audience's respect, real and fictional women alike face much higher standards."

In Variety, Brian Lowry uses the same imagery of life-affirming drama: In cable TV terms, “Masters of Sex” feels like a triumph of concept and casting even before you get to the perfectly entertaining series birthed out of those two well-devised’s the equivalent of a master class in pay-TV development." 

After praising the "impeccable" performance of the cast, The Hollywood Reporter said: "Perhaps the best story of all is that Masters of Sex manages, with lightning speed, to shed any preconceived notions about what type of show it will be and, in so doing, tilts the camera up from the breast to the brain."

Friday, September 20, 2013

"Masters" Nears Sept. 29 Premiere: Pop-Up Interactive in NYC, Conan and Letterman with Lizzy and Wall Street Journal's Weighs In

Hey New Yorkers, be sure to visit the Masters & Johnson exhibit, which will be open daily from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Openhouse Gallery in Manhattan located at 168 Bowery, the corner of Bowery and Kenmar, just south of the NYU campus. Admission is free. The network will officially unveil Masters of Sex at an invitation-only premiere screening and reception in New York City next week, and will roll out the red carpet for the series' all-star cast, dignitaries and New York elite.

Lizzy Caplan was on Conan O'Brien the other night, talking about her fantastic portrayal of Virginia Johnson on "Masters of Sex. Lizzy is also booked for David Letterman's show this Tuesday.

Also, The Wall Street Journal devotes a big article to our new show. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Buzzing Along: No. 2 with the TV critics, but No. 1 on the streets of New York.

Rolling along on Fifth Avenue, Credit: Leah via Drew, our secret agent in London.

      On the same day the Television Critics voted "Masters of Sex" the No. 2 top new show of the fall season, this lovely double-decker bus rolled down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, proclaiming "Do it. For science." It must be great to be a tourist in New York.

      Meanwhile, the Cleveland Plain Dealer selected "Masters of Sex" as the best new drama for this season. Says the P-D:
        It's no shock, therefore, that cable might again have the best new series of the fall. Prepare yourself for "Masters of Sex," the splendidly acted 12-episode period drama that Showtime will premiere at 10 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29. It's edgy. It's out there (way out there). It tackles a blistering range of taboo subjects. And it's funny -- very, very funny (funnier, in fact, than most of the fall's new comedies). As the title suggests, there's a lot of sex in "Masters of Sex," but, behind the racy material and all the laughs, there's a fascinating exploration of two intriguing characters: those pioneering researchers of human sexuality, William Masters and Virginia Johnson (winningly played by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan). It's obviously not meant for a mainstream audience, yet "Masters of Sex" may establish the one-time also-ran Showtime as the leader in cable's incredibly competitive quality race. The premium channel already has last year's Emmy winner for best drama, "Homeland," which sets up the "Masters of Sex" premiere, beginning its third season at 9 p.m. Sept. 29.

        And here's what Elle magazine had to say in its "Must-See" Culture List for Fall:
Inside NYC subway. Credit: Taylor Maier, Manhattan spy.
     Showtime’s scintillating new series Masters of Sex takes a long, hard look at the doctors who first probed the subject and set a sexual revolution in motion. Part House, part Red Shoe Diaries, the adaptation of Thomas Maier’s popular biography follows William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) as they go from brothel to bedroom to hospital room, trying to make sense of human desire in the squeakyclean 1950s. Sure, there are enough copulating couples, vibrators, and adventures in oral sex both on and off the exam table to fully satisfy, but the real sexual energy comes from the restrained, cerebral chemistry between Sheen and Caplan. Will they? Won’t they? History says they will, but, in the meantime, we’ll enjoy every moment of charged intellectual repartee. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Buzz, Buzz and More Buzz for "Masters of Sex": All Good! Four Things to Know and More

"Masters of Sex" is off to a great start in the early reviews and press previews. Be sure to read the book before the series starts Sept. 29! 

From IMDB editors: "Widely touted as the best series of the new fall series, and right so, "Masters of Sex" feels fresh, fearless and raw -- but not for the reasons the title suggests. Rather, the initial episodes hint that the most interesting aspect of this drama will be its exploration of psychological intimacy rather than titillating carnality. Sheen's Masters is a cold fish whose desire to embark on such controversial studies is born more out of a need to comprehend human connection. And while Kaplan's Virginia Johnson is a strong, sympathetic figure in her own right, the scenes that show off the awkward beginnings of their relationship's long (and at times painful) tango make us hope that Showtime commits to this for the long haul. Lastly, if you were a "Party Down" fan, you already know how talented Kaplan is. Here's hoping this becomes her big breakout role."

The LA Weekly's Amy Nicolson writes: "Stop and sink into the first couple episodes and you'll see it's a smart, cold and cutting dissection of attraction and ambition with a unique sense of humor."

Las Vegas Weekly  call "Masters of Sex: "A show that balances humor with historical insight and character development. Much less intense than the typical Showtime series, Masters avoids typical biopic pitfalls in favor of a relaxed pace and a refreshingly up-front attitude about sexuality."

The Week says: "No show has really dedicated itself to exploring the complexity of human sexuality. The story of Masters and Johnson's controversial sex research is a genuinely fascinating one, and the show has two stellar lead actors in Sheen and Caplan. If Masters of Sex lives up to the promise of its very strong premiere episode, Showtime finally has a series that can stand up alongside Homeland — or even surpass it. "

Rolling Stone"13 TV Shows to Watch This Fall"

From the MSN Entertainment team: "You know how two years ago, everyone was talking about a little Showtime show called Homeland? And then last year it was all "blah, blah, have you seen that new FX show The Americans with that girl from Felicity?" THIS is the drama that will cultivate that buzz this fall. You've been given a head's up, so don't be the last to watch it. ...So in addition to showing the duos contribution to the scientific community (and the backlash it caused), the series will also track Masters and Johnson's personal stories. It's a gold mine of tales to tell - and I look forward to every second of it."

Writer and Exec Producer Michelle Ashford with Exec Producer Sarah Timberman

The Latin Times had this to say: 
Here are four things to know about "Masters of Sex": (1) 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" which was first published in 2009 (2) The pilot of the show was directed and executive produced by John Madden, an Academy Award nominee. (3) Other stars of the series include: Caitlin Fitzgerald (It's Complicated), Nicholas D'Agosto (Heroes) and Teddy Sears (American Horror Story), Beau Bridges and Margo Martindale. (4) In real life, it wasn't until Maier's book that the work of Masters and Johnson was uncovered.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Best New Drama for Fall 2014? "Masters of Sex" is Looking Good, Say TV Critics in HuffPo Round-up.

    "Masters of Sex" is trying to be more cinematic, more like a serialized movie, than just about any drama seen before on television. It's a high-wire act that could easily backfire, a show dismissed purely as titillation. But like my book on which it is based, the ambitions for this show are much more substantive than some may realize.
    Thanks to Michelle Ashford, Sarah Timberman, John Madden and the show's wonderful cast and crew -- particularly stars Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan -- the critics seem to agree that "Masters of Sex" will be one of the best new dramas of the year. The HuffPos asked 19 of the top US critics and they put "Masters of Sex" at the top of the list.  Here's a sampling:

"It's smart. It's serious. It's not snickering about the origin of Masters and Johnson's sex study. Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan are terrific in it. It doesn't feel like every other drama on cable," says Alan Sepinwall, HitFlix.

"It's a real change-up for cable drama, which has lately been in a stale 'anti-hero' rut. It ["Masters of Sex"] -- is about the dynamics between people rather than one troubled brooding star with a baseball bat." -- James Poniewozik, Time magazine.

"The better period dramas all tell us something about the period that we had no idea about. And I really had no idea of what Masters and Johnson were up to -- I would have been so much more interested (lol)." -- Ellen Gray, Philadelphia Daily News.

"Honestly, the best new drama is probably "Masters of Sex" on Showtime."-- Dan Fienberg from HitFlix.