CLICK Image to Buy "WHEN LIONS ROAR: The Churchills and the Kennedys"

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Chris Matthews Likes WHEN LIONS ROAR: The Churchills and the Kennedys"

Chris Matthews Likes WHEN LIONS ROAR: The Churchills and the Kennedys"
"What I like most in Maier's giant work is the spine of this saga, the all-important record of influence the great soldier-statesman-historian's life exerted on the future American president." -- Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball, review in Chartwell Bulletin, The Churchill Centre

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':
Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/review-masters-of-sex-all-together-now-blurred-lines#xajU14WwhWZgCP3W.99


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.
Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/review-masters-of-sex-all-together-now-blurred-lines#xajU14WwhWZgCP3W.99



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! 

Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/review-masters-of-sex-phallic-victories-size-matters#FZMkKApMJzYGz1ah.99


Review: 'Masters of Sex' - 'Phallic Victories'
Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/review-masters-of-sex-phallic-victories-size-matters#FZMkKApMJzYGz1ah.99


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.
Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/review-masters-of-sex-phallic-victories-size-matters#FZMkKApMJzYGz1ah.99


Review: 'Masters of Sex' - 'Brave New World':
Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/review-masters-of-sex-brave-new-world-if-this-cars-rockin#3AioHMMTvJA95CCL.99




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.

Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/review-masters-of-sex-brave-new-world-if-this-cars-rockin#3AioHMMTvJA95CCL.99


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.

Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/review-masters-of-sex-phallic-victories-size-matters#FZMkKApMJzYGz1ah.99