Masters Of Sex” and the death of the Soap Opera.

Masters Of Sex.

Mas­ters Of Sex.

The Sopra­nos, Break­ing Bad, The Wire, Mad Men, Home­land, The Shield, The Killing, The Returned reviewed here, Top Boy reviewed here, our own Love/Hate, 24, Board­walk Empire, Dead­wood, House Of Cards, Six Feet Under, Lost, Game Of Thrones, Glee, Buffy, and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. reviewed here.

They all give us believ­able char­ac­ters in a rec­og­niz­able world that you real­ly want to invest your time in. Because what they are all about is the rela­tion­ships that are forged between the indi­vid­u­als who live there, and the bril­liant­ly told sto­ries that con­nect them and bring them all into conflict.

In oth­er words, they all do what soaps used to do in days gone by. Except they’re much, much bet­ter writ­ten, act­ed, direct­ed and produced.

Mad Men.

Mad Men.

Which isn’t mere­ly because they all have far more mon­ey to spend than a con­ven­tion­al soap ever did. Rather, it’s a reflec­tion of the rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion that tele­vi­sion had under­gone over the last decade or so. It’s part of what’s come to be called box set cul­ture.

Tele­vi­sion pro­grammes have to be so good today, that they demand to be seen on our ever larg­er and loud­er tele­vi­sion sets. So that down­load­ing them or stream­ing them onto your phone just isn’t going to be enough.

Not only that, they have to be so good, so remark­able, and to gen­er­ate so much talk and inter­est, so much noise,  that you’re going to feel an uncon­trol­lable urge to buy the box set and watch them all again. So good in fact, that when then they’re all repeat­ed, repeat­ed­ly on cable and satel­lite, you’ll hap­pi­ly watch them all again.

On the job.

On the job.

The lat­est in the cur­rent line of Olympian tele­vi­sion is Mas­ters of Sex. Based on a rev­o­lu­tion­ary study into sex­u­al mores and mechan­ics in the late 50s and 60s, it revolves around Michael Sheen as the sex­u­al­ly prud­ish but sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly dri­ven doc­tor, and the part­ner­ship he strikes up with the sex­u­al­ly lib­er­at­ed but com­plete­ly unqual­i­fied Lizzy Caplan, who he takes on as his assistant.

He by the way is called Mas­ters, and she Vir­ginia. Which could eas­i­ly have been an exam­ple of how clev­er­ly yet sim­ply the dif­fer­ent dynam­ics of sex­u­al pol­i­tics are delved into and invert­ed on the show. But that real­ly was what they were called.

In many ways, it’s lit­tle more than Mad Men lite. But it’s so well act­ed and writ­ten, and the sto­ries and their arcs are so care­ful­ly and clev­er­ly plot­ted, and it and they all look so fan­tas­tic – soft porn has rarely looked as plush, lush and refined – that you hap­pi­ly sit back, relax and let it all wash over you.

One more rea­son to stay in of an eve. And one more nail in the Soap Opera cof­fin.  You can see the Mas­ters of Sex trail­er here.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below and I shall keep you post­ed every week on All the Very Best and Worst in Film, Tele­vi­sion and Music!