Tag Archives: Masters of Sex

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You Won’t Read This Review of “Masters of Sex”: The Problem of Episodic Criticism

I WANT TO TALK with you about Masters of Sex. I want to talk about Michael Sheen’s acting, Lizzy Caplan’s costuming, and the friction between its serial and series elements. I want to tell you that the weepy, one-dimensional wife got, at least temporarily, less weepy, and that the show, for its initial resistance to Freudian conceptions of sex, has now seemingly gone full-Freud with its treatment of its protagonist’s neuroses. Most of all, I want to talk to you about the giant very obvious plot “twist” of this last episode.

But if I do, then most of you will stop reading — and it’s not so much because you’re spoiler-phobic as much as you don’t care, or at least not at this point. The reasons are legion: You don’t have cable. You have plans to watch it when it comes out on Netflix. You watched the pilot and have meant to catch up but haven’t. If you’re not at the precise point in the series as I am, who wants to read 1500 words about it?

Therein lies the tension in contemporary television criticism: the infinite space of digital publishing venues made incredibly detailed, lengthy, and immediate recaps/reviews possible, and while print magazines still publish traditional “reviews” of an entire season or DVD set and various outlets offer periodic think pieces on overarching trends, the day-after episodic critique is the new normal.

But writing about a specific show, especially a specific episode of a show, or a show that’s midway through its season, dramatically reduces your potential audience. People read reviews of books, movies, and albums all the time without having watched them, but no one reads a review of Chapter 17, or the second act of the play, or track eight, unless you actively love that piece of art.

When you’re writing episodic criticism, then, you’re writing for experts and fans. For some, this is a dream come true: your review can dispense with exposition and proceed with a sophisticated common vocabulary, really getting down into the nitty gritty of character dissection. The results can be compelling the way that any close reading can be compelling, but they also risk becoming hermetic or myopically obsessive. The more ornate the theory, the better: see, for example, Mad Men’s Bob Benson as Pete and Peggy’s child come back from the future to haunt them. Many of these theories are fun to think about, but they’re hollow — they don’t go anywhere.

The best criticism uses the art object as a launching pad towards topics bigger and broader; too often, episodic type of criticism mires readers in the narrative’s diegetic labyrinths.

Which isn’t to suggest that episodic criticism can’t be valuable. Serialized, “complex” television, whether in the form of Mad Men or soap operas, has long rewarded close dissection. What we talk about when we talk about the “One Man’s Trash” episode of Girls is (somewhat) different than what we talk about when we talk about Girls as a series. The rise of free blogging platforms, paired with the rise of “complex” television, didn’t necessarily make this criticism possible so much as it made it widely available. Some dude from Ohio may have been breaking down Star Trek: TNG episodes on a listserve for years, but after, oh, 2004, he could not only put it online (he could’ve done that for years; what’s up Geocities) or participate in a snark-fest on Television without Pity, but put it on his own domain that a.) loaded in faster than five minutes; b.) looked semi-professional; and c.) could be readily found via search engines and, more importantly, a search engine with the accuracy of Google. Blogger, WordPress, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and the reviewing apparatus expands unfettered.

That’s not intended as an official history so much as a reminder that where we are today is the result of a multiple industrial and technological shifts; together, they’ve created a universe in which nearly anyone, with nearly any fandom, can find others who want to think and write about it.

But those communities — of invested writers, readers, and commenters — are becoming increasingly niche and stratified. And the primary reason isn’t the internet so much as the sheer number of shows worth thinking and talking about. It’s what Alan Sepinwall calls the “too much good television” problem: in 2002, there were 28 original scripted dramas and 6 original comedies on paid and extended cable; by 2012, that number had risen to 77 original dramas and 48 comedies. And that’s not counting the networks! That is a CRAZY amount of television.

And a lot of it is good — if not very good, then good enough for people to want to read and talk about it. Just look at The A.V. Club: they’re currently offering episodic reviews of over fifty shows spanning genres, networks, and air times. You can find a review of the CW’s teen historical melodrama Reign as readily as you can find one of The X-Files or Homeland.

Popularity of these posts varies widely. A recent review of the fantastic Danish series Borgen had 22 comments, six Tweets, and one Facebook share; the most recent Homeland review had 551 comments, 23 Tweets, and 22 Facebook shares. Many more people are reading these reviews than these shares suggest, but they’re still not on par with broader, non-episodic criticism: Emily Nussbaum’s overview of Key & Peele received over 1200 shares, for example, and her Sex and the City corrective was shared more than 15,000 times.

But again, look at those numbers: people read that Sex and the City piece because most of them had watched it. Not a specific episode, but an episode. Whether they loved it or loathed it, they knew that they would be conversant with the review. As one of the early “golden age” shows that has come to stand in for an entire understanding of sex-positive, consumerism-driven postfeminism, Sex and the City was and remains a cultural touchstone — a show that you can use as an example in a public lecture, a means of rooting a concept, a way of being inclusive instead of exclusive.

SATC and other shows like it make television function as what Horace Newcomb and Paul M. Hirsch, writing back in 1983, called “the cultural forum.” They pose ideological questions and implicitly encourage conversations about those questions: What does it mean to be a man providing for one’s family post-recession? (Breaking Bad) How can young people negotiate the contradictions inherent to postfeminism? (Girls). But the more that “television” proliferates, the less “must-watch” television remains a salient category and the harder it becomes to host forums for those discussions.

And so a new hierarchy of television criticism emerges: on the top, there’s a rapidly dwindling number of shows that function as broad cultural forums, sometimes, but not always, with ratings to match the sheer amount of discourse they inspire. Girls, Mad Men, Game of Thrones. Homeland until this season. Arguably The Walking Dead and Scandal, both of which are highly divisive — The Walking Dead because it’s been critically lampooned; Scandal because it wears its melodramatic credentials on its sleeve.

Then there’s the expanding raft of programs that inspire online recapping, reviewing, and rehashing. The most visible programs are the “quality” ones, and by “quality” I mean aesthetics/look (something like The Americans on FX), narrative complexity (Arrow on Fox) and/or critical acclaim (Parks & Rec on NBC). Shows with all three seem to inspire the most high-profile critical space (this is, remember, ostensibly a review of Masters of Sex), but you only really need one of those three to merit review-like discourse (just ask the Tumblr community around Vampire Diaries).

And then there are shows that seem not to matter — or at least not matter enough to talk about every week. Standard procedurals (Law & Order SVU, NCIS), first run syndication, broad swaths of reality television, children’s programming, the news, tosh.0, sports broadcasts, most cartoons, and other weird stuff and cobwebby television corners, some of it watched by far more people than a single episode of Mad Men. These programs are ideological gold mines, but we haven’t quite figured out how to talk about them with rigor or regularity.

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Television has long been framed as the “democratic medium,” and you could claim that the proliferation of content is one of the ways in which 21st century “television” will not only be unyoked from things like, say, televisions, but will also redefine what a “democratic medium” might look like. In the three-network era, television was democratic not only because it was free to anyone who could afford a set, but also because the limited amount of available programming ensured that most shows would, in some way, function as cultural forums. Even something as seemingly inane as Mister Ed was watched by enough people that when Mae West came on and did something suggestive, it sparked conversations. These conversations weren’t published and they almost certainly didn’t invoke aesthetics, probe implicit meanings, or use words like “showrunner,” but they happened.

Today, television is democratic in fiercely neoliberal way: if I like something, then I want it, and I want other people to like it the way I do. Freedom of choice becomes freedom to choose precisely what your media diet — and criticism thereof — includes.

The complexity and variety of the third golden age of television thus functioned as a catalyst for the first golden age of television criticism. Once that critical engine was set in motion, however, it had nothing to confine it: the current critical landscape is so diffuse, so niche-oriented, that I often feel less like I’m starting a conversation and more like I’m having one with myself, or others with very similar concerns and celebrations.

Don’t mistake me: I’m not asking for a troll posse to squat in the comments of our posts and tell us that everything we’re writing about Masters of Sex is wrong. Rather, I’d like for my writing on Masters of Sex — hell, anyone’s thoughtful, time-consuming, painfully crafted review — to reach more people, to engender something larger than a click. As an academic, I think about this constantly: how can we take our work, the product of months if not years of labor, and make it into more than a peer-reviewed, firewalled article accessed by eight confused students a year? It’s a question of depth versus accessibility — and it’s a tension by no means limited to academia or online television criticism.

But how do we take the public forum available to us and turn it into something better — something less niche and more inclusive, something less inside baseball and more cultural forum — without either a.) writing about NCIS every week or b.) offering unsubstantiated yet link-baity platitudes about television at large?

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This piece came about because I couldn’t think about something that interesting to say about S01E05 of Masters of Sex. It’s a quality show; it has quality elements. It has Lizzy Caplan; there are lots of shots of people watching other people have orgasms. It’s a show about white middle-class people during a vivid historical moment, and it’s very nicely done. But I don’t think it necessarily merits, or even needs, a weekly dissection. (Just ask Lili how hard it was to write her review).

With the growth of webseries and Netflix/Amazon original programming, the amount of television programming is only going to continue to proliferate. If we’re never going to regain the cultural forum of classic television, we can at least stop digging the cultural trenches even deeper. To do so, however, we have to think critically about how we’re reviewing — and viewing and reading — out of habit and history.

Again, I don’t think that episodic criticism is, by definition, at fault. Certain episodes demand more, and I’ve seen brilliant episodic criticism connect single episodes to broader trends, historical context, industrial imperatives, overarching politics of representation or, as Lili did yesterday, write not so much about the episode as the series at large and its rejection (and periodic engagement) with tired, facile characterization rooted in pop-Freudism.

But too often, episodic criticism turns into the snake eating its own tail, simply because there’s nothing else to do. That’s criticism that closes down meaning — that encourages people to believe what they believe about the show, the episode, and their meanings — rather than opening it up.  And it’s not as if the critics themselves love this form: it forces a style of writing that, judging from Twitter and podcast conversations, is much more exhausting and much less satisfying than other forms of criticism. There seems to be a reader-appetite for it, but who’s to say that readers aren’t bored as well?

We seem to agree that the third golden age is drawing to a close. We also seem to agree that there’s too much worthy television for any critic, paid or not, to watch it all, and few are enthralled with the current dynamics of episodic reviewing. It’s a perfect time, in other words, to switch shit up — to reconsider what the next golden age of television criticism might resemble — and reaffirm what makes this medium so infuriating, satisfying, and compelling in the first place. The internet changed our understanding of what television criticism could or should do. There’s no reason it can’t change it yet again.

AHP

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Sex and the Slightly Unreliable Narrator

Dear TV,

I’D HOPED Masters of Sex would resist following Mad Men down the sepia brick road to the land of overburdened flashbacks, and so far so good; five episodes in, it seems to have a comparatively sane relationship to its past. So far we’ve met Mr. Johnson and the original Mrs. Masters. Mather Zickel’s George Johnson supplied some much-needed texture and edge to Caplan’s likable Virginia Johnson (while demonstrating the need for that edge — the episode ends with her boss and ex-husband discussing her sexual magic while she waits, bedraggled and exhausted, at a bus stop. It’s an interesting counterpoint to Draper’s conversation with Betty’s therapist). Masters’s mother has been flawed, likable, and an obvious source of pain to her son. And oh, a live mother! Can we take a moment to rejoice that she’s alive, and not another fictional mother sacrificed to the god Help-I-Need-A-Motivation-For-This-Character? I hope we see more of her.

Here’s what’s working about these two figures from the past: their explanatory power is limited. Last time we talked about this show I made the case that it was refreshingly immune to Freudian narratives, and I mostly stand by that. Masters’s sleepwalking is certainly a symptom of emotional disturbance, but the cause is crystal clear by the end of the episode: he sees his mother’s late-in-life agency as a betrayal of his young self. There’s a sharply literal bent to the show’s portrayal of his childhood. I’ve toyed with the idea that Masters has a low sperm count through sheer force of will (mastery, if you like), but some commenters over at the AV Club speculated, pretty convincingly, that the knickers story more than accounts for Masters’s current infertility. Wear your boyhood shorts well into adolescence and the damage to your testicles will be as great as the damage to your psyche. No psychoanalytic metaphors here; Masters was almost literally castrated by his father.

Except he wasn’t! Libby got pregnant.

There’s resilience in the Masters gene pool, in other words, and this bothers William, who wishes his mother would have bounced back earlier or not at all. Getting Libby pregnant means the damage incurred in childhood was less irreversible than he thought. Nothing could be less romantic than the Masters’s efforts at conception. The part of us that longs for some acknowledgment of romance or chemistry, for confirmation of the myth that context contributes more to conception than the sheer facts of biology, is a little crushed when Masters’s clinical techniques actually work. They simply weren’t supposed to. We’re waiting for Libby to exit the show but she keeps reappearing, perceptive, gentle, pregnant. Less of a victimized drip than we (narratively) want her to be.

This show takes a lot of pleasure in exploring how fertility intersects with control, and it loves punning on Masters’s struggle with mastery — mastery of the self, of circumstances, of a career path, of the study, of Johnson. At first glance, this is a story about an obstetrician whose academic interest is in recreational sex — a man for whom fertility has been a lifelong pretext, the concept closest to what he really wants to study professionally but orthogonal to it. This seemed, when the show began, like a case of cruel irony: the infertile fertility expert! But it seems, in retrospect, that Masters’s fictive sterility was a source of relief to him. Masters didn’t want children, and his efforts at misdirection (Libby is sterile, not he!) were meant to perpetuate their childless state. This is only just becoming clear, four episodes after we learned about their difficulties. The real irony is that he was too good a fertility expert: his technique worked.

What we’re starting to see on the show, in other words, are hints of unreliable narration that force you to look backward at what seemed like stable ground. Ethan Haas’s assessment in the pilot was that Masters didn’t want to admit to a low sperm count because, well, masculinity. At this juncture, knowing what we know, it seems likely that Masters only wanted children because they completed Scully’s portrait of the family man. If he couldn’t conceive due to infertility (and why not make it his wife’s!), his immaculate professional credentials couldn’t be damaged by their absence.

This is an efficient show: most scenes achieve multiple narrative ends. That little flashback scene turns out to be about Scully’s closeted psychology too, of course: his concerns about Masters being labeled a pervert seemed like sensible advice, but turn out to be pure projection. (There’s Freud, sneaking back in through the window!) Scully sees the younger man as a version of himself, and prescribes him exactly the same course. Be yourself underground, he says, and keep up the perfect façade that will forestall questions. We may think we’re seeing the attitudes of an era, but we later discover that our sources (Ethan, Scully) were flawed readers of the circumstances we trusted them to describe.

It’s a testament to Masters of Sex that even the flashback contains the seeds of both Scully and Masters’s stories. Now, it may easily be that Scully’s advice was good, and that Masters has the preoccupations about masculinity Haas attributes to him, and that his reasons for concealing his low sperm count from Libby are as archaic as Haas thinks they are, but I doubt it. Masters so obviously houses his ego elsewhere.

The miscarriage is a test of Masters’s affective investments. It drives home our lack of access to Masters’s real feelings about Libby (and hers). Up to this point he’s been so calculating, cruel, and thoughtless that it’s genuinely difficult to imagine him charming her, or either of them falling in love. It’s a bizarre marriage, and we find eventually that its peculiarity stems from Masters’s own sense of it as performance/checked box. If Donald Draper married Betty to fulfill the American Dream in all its hopeful Aryan poetry, Masters sees the American Dream as an invisibility cape he’ll need to fulfill his professional mission. Don starts crooked and wants above all to be seen as legitimate, as belonging; Masters starts with legitimacy in order to go accrue enough respectability to go to a “cathouse” and remain pure. Both men basically want to disappear, but their relation to social contagion is quite different. (If Draper joined the study, Masters’s and Johnson’s work would have been done much sooner.)

What’s enjoyable about the show, in other words, is that it seems to be doing one quite conventional thing while also doing another. Masters’s interactions with Libby expose the pitfalls of the “mother of my children” logic that saw women in the 50s as angelic creatures and helpmeets. It’s almost impossible to regard such a person sexually. No wonder he finds it unthinkable to watch Libby masturbate; the angelic wife is incompatible with arousal or desire.

This is a familiar story about the period, and it makes for compelling fiction, but it’s not right here. Masters’ problems only appear to be the problems of the 50s Everyman. He isn’t a man of his time, he’s three standard deviations out from the thing Don Draper badly wanted to be. In that sense, these are both stories of men in Dream drag. Even his marital dysfunction is only apparently conventional.

Still, his feelings about the pregnancy and the miscarriage are outside his conscious control, and the sleepwalking is meant, I think, to show the limits of Masters’s self-mastery. His emotional discipline in the name of science is getting some jagged edges.

So what about Johnson? The trouble is that there’s so little to say about Johnson. Her problems with her kids don’t quite land. Her expressions of wry regret and her conflicted take on motherhood are interesting, but we don’t know why she feels about it the way she does. Will we meet her mother, I wonder? I look forward to learning what she does care about, beyond wanting to be involved in the study. It’s been suggested that Johnson is becoming a manic pixie dream girl. I don’t think she is — yet. But things are drifting in that direction; her origins so far are obscure, her wisdom innate, her background only marginally relevant. George Johnson is a little too starry-eyed about his ex-wife, and it’s a missed opportunity. We could have learned about her childhood, her flaws, her first marriage. So far, Johnson has been our only source for explanations of her background, her decisions, and her past. The only outside information we’ve gotten about her has concerned her sexual prowess. That’s a problem. In a show where every narrator has turned out to be a little unreliable, I hope she does too, otherwise the balance is going lopsided. We’d better see Johnson make some serious mistakes.

Sincerely (OR NOT),

Lili

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Against Pop-Freud

Dear TV,

WE’VE TALKED A BIT HERE about Masters of Sex in relation to Mad Men and The Sopranos, and I want to wrap up our first week back at LARB by talking about how these shows use Freud. Here’s my working hypothesis: Masters of Sex is — surprisingly, for a show that’s explicitly about sex — a cinched-up anti-drama and a sustained attack on the tendency, in our “good” TV, to psychologize the antihero using Freudian psychoanalysis. It’s a show refreshingly uninterested in either the breakthrough or the climax.

It’s worth saying, first off, that a lot of good TV is Freud-sloshed. It’s not his fault, but Freud’s a handy deus ex machina for the storyteller who needs his characters sick but motivated and sympathetic in their sickness. I’ve long thought Livia Soprano turns on Tony when she finds out he’s going to a psychiatrist not because it implies that he’s weak or disturbed, but because she refuses to appear in that particular account of human nature. Casting himself as a patient means Tony’s surrendered to an ideology that — so goes the stereotype — saddles the mother with the psychic weight of a child’s development and blames her for its failures. Livia won’t accept that frame, and why would she? (Who but a sick Freudian subject would accept the burden of Freudian motherhood?) It’s a neat turn that Livia’s sociopathy gets medicalized as BPD in contemporary psychiatric terms. It’s more of the same, of course; BPD is the new “neurosis,” and in resorting to BPD, the show’s explanatory system just shuffles through generations of psychiatric history without changing its basic approach.

Freud might’ve spent the early stages of his career mainly on female patients, but these days it’s the male protagonists — the damaged recidivists — whose irrationality we’re invited to analyze, sympathize with, examine, understand. Insofar as Tony Soprano and Don Draper can claim our sympathy, it’s because they’re imagined as Freudian subjects whose relation to sexuality is determined in large part by childhood. Sure, it’s a little surprising that Draper’s backstory is actually more Freudian than Soprano’s, who at least gets the thing out in the open on the couch. But the point is basically that in this kind of Good Drama, a character’s momentum derives from a variation on Pop Freudian Causality, a kind of reaching back through human nature to a core of sex. Sex is why people do. Sexual trauma explains Don Draper and everything he wants and does — this, very broadly, is the point of all those overdone id-revealing flashbacks: Sylvia Rosen exists because a prostitute who resembled her raped him.

The trouble with a show that invites you to sympathize so completely with the flawed protagonist is that the answers pale next to the questions. Why does Don, an otherwise interesting, complex creature, commit adultery like a compulsive? If he’s as stuck as he seems, as permanently damaged, do we want to keep watching? So many people want poor Don to change; are these, they seem to say, really the limits of the possible for men in the fifties and sixties (and now)? Fans are dissatisfied with Don these days, and it’s because the Freudian approach has worn a little thin.

My friend Monica once observed that because almost everything is phallic, there’s a sort of symbolic bankruptcy to a penis. There’s just not much it can symbolize because somewhere along the way, penises became the thing that everything else is about. The brilliance of Masters of Sex, in my opinion, is that it finds a way out of this paradigm: it’s explicitly about sex, so it can’t be about sex. Masters, unlike Draper, is just REALLY INTO HIS STUDY. And Johnson’s REALLY INTO IT TOO. It’s not sublimation, it’s not repression. Sure, he seems to like Johnson, but that’s out in the open. There’s nothing delicious and secret about that, it just is. Yeah, he had an unhappy childhood. What Matt Weiner would have stretched out over four seasons comes out in two episodes. There could not be a less Freudian show.

That’s promising, I think, because it presents an opportunity to explore something other than the romance of repression. Mad Men’s narrative problem is that the penis at its core isn’t, in the final analysis, all that interesting, and neither are its lapses. Weiner’s is a beautiful manufactured universe of trauma and symbols and pain that reduces — if you insist on anchoring it too closely to Don, which Weiner keeps doing (to my chagrin) — not to a compelling account of a historical moment but to a particular man’s very sad and tormented sexual history. It accords huge explanatory power to a caricatured and uninteresting past. Sex was huge to Freud but it’s smaller now, and it’s small to Johnson — her ability to understand it as small, as something that does NOT explain the universe or the human spirit, sometimes seems like her character’s chief virtue.

It’s a neat little schema: the character who dedicates her life to studying sex is the one most keenly aware of its ultimate unimportance. By the same token, the show that’s explicitly about sex is the one with the narrative latitude to wander away and explore other things.

The point is, Masters of Sex isn’t a universe where cigars are (sometimes) just cigars*, it’s one where dildos are always dildos. Penises aren’t the ultimate referent; they can be made of glass and shared and are substitutable, and the most exciting thing about Masters’s Ulysses isn’t its phallic quality or the pleasure it confers but the light on the end and the camera. What’s cool about the glass penis is that it has a point of view. A penis you can see through: that’s disorienting. Why won’t it shrink obediently down into its own central explanatory principle? Why can’t we bask in the porniness this show seems to offer? It’s called — absurdly, as several have pointed out — Masters of Sex! Why isn’t it, well, sexier?

There are lots of reasons, I think. One is that Ulysses transcends porn by going for the grossly anatomical. The porn camera is importantly external (witness the importance of the money shot). There’s nothing inherently sexy about an EKG or about the birth canal. Being visually inside a woman isn’t actually that hot and neither are these inner signs of sex; confronted with images of arousal that  map onto an eye on a glass penis, the pornographic imagination just doesn’t have much to say. Sex, Masters of Sex says. Yes, sex.

(Another reason is that it’s a show that’s literally about a woman and a man looking together through a penis. In literalizing what every one of these Pop-Freudian shows do — let’s look through Don’s penis today! is a perfectly legitimate way to invite one’s partner to watch Mad Men, and I say that with some affection — it liberates us from the tacit unrelenting pressure to do so all the time. The penis gaze may be less sexy than the male gaze, but it might also be more interesting.)

The same is true of the show’s anticlimactic structure writ large: as you guys have pointed out, there’s something startling and unerotic about the show’s narrative style and speed: everything comes fast. What about foreplay? What happened to the interpretive work we’re used to doing? What about the layered metaphors? What about the slow unfolding? WHAT’S UP WITH ALL THE EXPOSITION? It feels almost condescending — perhaps we miss Mad Men’s flattering subtlety, the allusions, the accurate accents. What are all these men from the fifties doing having conversations about consent and stopping sexual encounters when the women aren’t into it? Aren’t the men of history all monsters? The viewer misses her sense of historical superiority. (Too late — as Jane points out, it’s long gone.)

This might be a virtue too. Many critics have pointed out that Mad Men sometimes becomes complicit in the misogyny and racism it depicts so anthropologically even as it flatters the viewer by implying that we’re Above All That now. Masters of Sex has no interest in making you feel good about the enlightened times you live in. It doesn’t keep Libby Masters as the downtrodden nitwit who calls her husband Daddy (though I worried it might), and it’s quite unsentimental in showing us Masters’s selfishness, egotism, and unlikability. We don’t start the series watching him sitting alone, romantically, in a bar, talking cigarettes with a black waiter; we aren’t invited to succumb to his charm before discovering he’s a cad. We first see him at an awards show where he’s ungracious and inarticulate. When next we see him, he’s in the “cathouse” timing Betty’s nonexistent orgasms. This is not a character working hard for our affection. There’s relief in that: we don’t have to mother him. And as a result of not having to mother, we might come to feel some unexpected affection after all.

I want to talk quickly about two scenes that illustrate the show’s lack of interest in providing climax even as it relentlessly studies it. The pilot ends with Masters’s pokerfaced invitation: “We should undertake the research with each other.” It seems like a cliffhanger and you’d be right to expect the next episode to pick up there. And while we will see characters thinking about it and mentally rehearsing this very awkward conversation, what we won’t see is the conversation itself! It turns out that cliffhanger scene at the end of the pilot wasn’t about the frisson of the sexual proposition at all — at least, that’s not where the narrative’s investments live. The real dramatic situation is the much quieter and more novelistic circumstance in which one imagines a million different ways an encounter might go and then gets no satisfaction. It’s at least in part about that frustration, about the deprivation of the fight for which one has been preparing. The fantasies in operation here aren’t the giant sexual stakes they seem to be, they’re petite and conversational and punctured by an unforeseen turn. There’s a miniaturist’s Woolfian sensibility underlying all the “smut.”

We get a similarly deflating outcome after (slight spoiler alert) one character accuses another of spilling a secret. We never find out whether they did or didn’t, not because it’s mysterious but because that’s just not the point. No one is much interested in hammering out the rightness or wrongness of their case; neither do characters in this show seem interested in indulging the kind of muteness that powers tragedy. No Betty Drapers refusing to recognize philandering. No Dick Whitmans. Just stubborn people with sexual impulses but greater intellectual passions dealing with each other in a fairly straightforward way. And as much as that might stymie us, paranoid readers that we are, it does to me, feel kind of new.

Not too close or you’ll get poked in the eye,

Lili

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Masters of None?

MASTERS OF SEX, “PILOT”

Dear Television,

Let’s talk genre.

WHEN I WATCH Masters of Sex, here’s what I see: 1) a hospital, an operating bay, white lab coats, doctor politicking, neurotic middle-aged male with horrible home life (medical drama); 2) ‘50s hairstyles, outdated politics played as plot points, beautiful mid-century modern homes, big band jazz (period piece); 3) women of various social classes suffering under patriarchy, women connecting with other women, women triumphing over societal expectations (social melodrama).

I realize that genre-hybridity is nothing new, especially given the trajectory of the last decade, when the narrative complexity of “quality television” has filtered down to everything from ABC Family teen dramas to CBS procedurals. Indeed, genre hybridity is one of several characteristics that have been used to distinguish the quality (I don’t even own a TV)  from the dreck (the medium of the masses). If normal television was aesthetically uninteresting, quality television was filmic, even beautiful. If normal TV was the product of collaboration, quality television was the brainchild of a single showrunning genius.

And if normal television was dependent on genre, then quality television would mash the hell out of those genres. The Sopranos was a gangster melodrama; Carnivale was a paranormal period piece; Deadwood was a Shakespearian Western. Take audience’s well-trained genre expectations to lure them in and then, with various degrees of grace, showily flip those expectations. The mob boss who goes to therapy, the old West kingpin with various Freudian affiliations and a natural talent for soliloquies. It was different and surprising and psychologically complex, which, in today’s critical climate, are codes for “good.”

But in case you haven’t heard, we’re at the end of this latest “golden age” in television. The innovations of the early 2000s seem tired — the sort of thing that also-ran quality networks, like FX, employ. (The Americans, after all, is a family melodrama dressed in spy thriller ‘80s wardrobe). To get noticed in the vastly overpopulated quality landscape, you can’t just mix two genres. As Masters of Sex proves, you need at least four.

But Masters is trying to be all the quality things to all the quality-television-watching people, and the multiplicity of purpose is, at least at this point, diluting the show’s potential power. It’s combining the addictive energy of a procedural, the charismatic anti-hero of an HBO drama, the sexy allure of a period piece, and the weepy triumph of a soap. It’s the jack of all trades, ER + Breaking Sexy Bad + Mad Men + Nashville.

Granted, that kind of sounds like a perfect show, but the more I think about it, the more it seems like the televisual version of the soda fountain “graveyard” — you think that Coke and Mountain Dew and Root Beer and Grape Soda will taste bomb together, but you just end up drinking four sips and apologizing to your mom for wasting her 99 cents. Jack of all trades, as your Granddad would say, and the master of none.

The point, then, is that Masters of Sex can’t decide if this is the role it will take. The sex research is played as a mix of sight gags (an enormous glass dildo named ‘Ulysses’;  a keyhole shot of Beau Bridges peering through the end of said dildo while it’s implanted in a subject, which gives the curious feeling of a vagina filming a man’s eye) and very serious, very impassioned speeches from Dr. Masters (Michael Sheen) concerning the importance of sexual knowledge.  We have a classic quirky Man of Science, but his sidekick and quasi-protege, Dr. Ethan Hass (Nicolas D’Agnosto), seems to have hopped over from a teenaged version of Grey’s Anatomy, with the accordant levels of strife, sexual yearning, and paralyzing jealousy, plus a little red-faced drunken woman-battering. Granted, Hass’s angry slap is a chance to demonstrate that our female protagonist, Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) is the type of woman to hit back. But didn’t I know 30 minutes before, when she introduced Hass to the concepts of cunnilingus and fellatio?

As Johnson, Caplan is winningly charismatic and lacks the meekness that typify female portrayals of this time. Johnson is a trailblazer, which is part of the reason she gets a show about her. I like that she’s kind of a bad mother and only kind of feels bad about it. But the female characters that surround her are storybook foils: the hard-boiled strong-accented prostitute and the neglected delicate flower of Mrs. Masters, whose self-loathing “I can’t get pregnant” narrative seems torn from a Lifetime movie of the week. I get that Masters is using private spaces to refract and reframe the public ones, but right now it feels a bit like a thoroughly discombobulating narrative funhouse.

Phil might have inadvertently figured out part of the problem in his piece on Monday, suggesting that unlike Mad Men, with its immaculately paced commitment to showing the politics of both the era and its characters, Masters of Sex is just fine with telling. Exposition abounds: here’s what we’re doing, here’s who I am, here’s every central conflict that will define the season — all in Episode One!

It’s the sort of narrative economy we’ve come to expect from feature films, which need to finish setting the table before the end of the first act. While quality TV has embraced the aesthetics and style of feature film, it’s rejected its narrative tropes. Television, at least this type of television, shouldn’t be that efficient. It should take weeks, if not seasons, to figure out who our characters are. And Masters has made concessions to that understanding: we have a vague sense that Masters contains multitudes. But the few promising character arcs of Episode One have already been solved by Episode Three, and it almost feels like the writers fear that every episode might be the last, inserting a loose end (a brazen prostitute; a gay male prostitute) and tying it up as quickly as possible.

Is Masters of Sex a simple show or a complex one? I honestly can’t decide. I think it, like most of us, sees value in both. Not every show has to have the seven-season pre-planned arc of Mad Men, but there’s something to be said for subtlety and allowing your viewers to reach their own conclusions about, say, a character’s place in the world without explicitly ventriloquizing it through a job interview. It oscillates between trying to be all genres at once and playing up a single one; its main commentary is on sexual politics, but it doesn’t want to be accused of ignoring race or class, so it inserts those as well — a sideplot involving an African-American patient, for example, is so thin, and so transparently instrumental to establishing the character of the white protagonist, that it’s embarrassing to watch. Masters committed to historical realism (just look at Masters’s dining room) but wants to play with anachronistic music (an unaccountable James Blake song plays over a montage at the end of Episode Two). Its project, like that of its protagonist, is undercutting the myths of human sexuality, yet it depicts a female in the throes of orgasm within ten seconds of stimulation.

I think we can trace this super-genre mishmash, and its unsettling shifts in tone, to a finicky embrace and flight from melodrama. We often employ the term “melodrama” interchangeably with other genre terms — Western, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Rom-Com — but as film scholar Linda Williams has very convincingly argued, melodrama isn’t a genre so much as a mode: “a peculiarly democratic and American form that seeks dramatic revelation of moral and emotional truths through a dialectic of pathos and action.”

In other words, melodrama is more than the sum of generic structures and set pieces; it’s an entire approach to narrative. Under this definition, melodrama includes everything from Pretty Little Liars to The Bourne Identity. In the 19th century, melodrama’s function was to make the world morally legible — a sense of existential comfort as the church ceased to be the measure of all things. In the late 20th and 21st, melodrama seems to highlight the moral illegibility of the world — which, one might argue, provides a very different sort of comfort.

The melodramatic mode has always been characterized by excess — excess of emotion, specifically, which not only shows up in the form of tears and stoic glances into the horizon, but that which cannot be said overflows into the mise-en-scene and costume. Tom & Lorenzo’s epic fashion breakdowns enjoy crazy popularity because Mad Men employs wardrobe and setting to tell the story as much as dialogue — the ultimate showing over telling. But Masters is an unrepressed show about a historically repressed subject: it depicts sex when most people wouldn’t even speak it; it shows and tells.

That should be the formula for a fascinating show. That’s the high concept; the way the show was most likely sold: like Mad Men, but turned inside out. Instead of endlessly meditating on the stultifying ennui and lack of identity of the ‘50s and ‘60s, let’s use science to actually figure that shit out. I realize it’s too early to criticize the show for what it hasn’t yet become. But as we track the progress of the series, its ability to sort through its self-generated generic haze may be the barometer of its success. Otherwise, it’ll just be a Graveyard, filled with so many flavors as to taste like nothing at all.

Grape Soda 4 Life,
AHP

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Masters_image

S is for Scandal

MASTERS OF SEX, “PILOT”

Dear Television,

BEFORE WE GO any further in discussing the pilot of Showtime’s new drama, Masters of Sex, I want to take one more look at its title. I’m in full agreement with Phil: Michelle Ashford’s show about the famous team of sexperts — William H. Masters and Virginia Johnson — could not be more unfortunately named. (Lizzy Caplan, who portrays Johnson, is of the same opinion.) If we’re not embarrassed about its bold declaration, we should at least be embarrassed about the bad punning. Whether in 1956, when the show begins, or this past Sunday, right on the heels of TV’s morally dubious journey with Walter White — sex is a topic that apparently remains scandalous. Just to see the word in a title is enough to give us pause. What’s particular about the implication in Masters of Sex, though, is that while we might be liberated (and liberal) enough now to embrace the fact of sex, to know too much about sex still seems undesirable — even prudish.

When we debated covering Masters of Sex earlier this summer, someone made the joke that it seemed especially “on brand” for us. And if we follow the general critical reception on the show so far, we might take “on brand” to mean something like “best new show of the fall season.” I’m being facetious (quite like the show’s title!), but judgments such as “best new show” are of course culturally weighted. While we did anticipate that Masters of Sex might keep company with current prestige dramas (it does star Sheen and Caplan and it does, after all, air immediately after Homeland), we weren’t sure — having not, well, seen the show — exactly in which ways it would. And even now, while its first half-dozen episodes have been largely embraced and vouched for by critics, there’s still a general sense that no one is quite sure what Masters of Sex is doing — in terms of pacing, plotting, tone — and that this ambivalence itself is, if not a definite good thing, at least refreshing.

This brings us to the difficulties of judging pilots in isolation. Even comedies, more fixed in their repetitious episodic formulas and rhythms, are often spoken of as getting better or gaining momentum across time (cf. New Girl, Parks and Rec). The buzz that has already surrounded Masters of Sex as The Show To Watch makes me wonder if even Mad Men garnered this much talk leading up to its pilot. Then again, Mad Men seems born of another era of TV viewership and criticism.

Masters of Sex opens just four years prior to when the Mad Men pilot takes place — and most criticism about the show so far hasn’t been able to discuss the former without reference to the latter — a move that is beginning to feel more and more reflexive. The comparisons between the two period pieces, though, have been mostly made in order to stage the difference between the two. To repeat Phil:

Masters of Sex is not, in other words, a Mad Men rip-off, and the longer we talk about them in the same breath the more difficult it will be for an audience to build around the new series. But looking especially at this first episode in the context of Mad Men’s, I think we can figure out a little bit about what makes this pilot feel slightly off, and also what makes this pilot thrillingly unique.

For starters, I think it’s a little premature to be describing Sheen as a male anti-hero (and perhaps it’s time to reevaluate that term in general — anti-heros have been around since Don Juan, and it also doesn’t mean Male Character That Is Both Awful And Sympathetic, because oh my god is that list long). Sheen is neither as aggressively charming nor self-loathing as Don Draper (yet), and his reservation is seen as part of his charm. (I, for one, have always found Michael Sheen more compelling than Jon Hamm.) Though questions such as whether Caplan’s vivacious portrayal of the competent Johnson will accrue the complexity of a Peggy Olson seems a strange comparison, since what drew Peggy and Don into the possibility of becoming equals was that their relationship was never an explicitly sexual one. The wilting and repressed housewife figure is not to be missed, though. How much is Sheen’s wife — portrayed in an almost classic melodramatic tenor by an exquisite Caitlin Fitzgerald (who is dating Sheen in real life) — like a more sympathetic Betty Draper? Opinions about the actors, beyond noting how attractive and dapper everyone is, are generally laudatory. Sheen and Caplan are both seen as playing somewhat outside of their usual register of characters — both eschewing irony or comedic archetypes for more earnest performances.

Masters of Sex is a show that isn’t afraid of spoilers, especially given that most of its main events can be found on a Wikipedia page. In fact, it’s a show that seems almost flagrantly dismissive of the plot conventions that come with creating the suspense or surprise that builds during the will-they-won’t-they proceedings of most drama romances (even if we know that 95% of the time they will). Masters of Sex is almost pat with its use of cuts: after the opening scene where Masters excuses himself from his own honoring party, we go to a shot of a man (face, at first, obscured) going at a woman from behind. It’s only after this shot that we clearly see that Masters is not the one having sex, but is instead observing it. Later when Betty DiMello (played by Annaleigh Ashford), the prostitute who’s helping Masters conduct experiments, tells him that he needs to get a “female partner” if he truly wants to study it, the camera jumps to another scene where Ethan Haas (Nicholas D’Agosto) is describing the new attractive secretary (Caplan’s Johnson) to Masters. It doesn’t expect much work from the viewer to put two and two together, and these logical connections are displayed to us early on perhaps in order to do away with their importance.

This is where Phil’s discussion of the weird pilot might apply (and others, such as Andy Greenwald and Alyssa Rosenberg, have noted the rushed pacing of the show as well). Plot points are so hurried in the pilot that critics have expressed concern at how well the show might sustain itself in the long run (insert plateau joke here). Greenwald has suggested that, at this rate, Masters of Sex might fall into the unarresting narrative circuitry of another history-influenced show, Boardwalk Empire.

Unlike Boardwalk Empire though, or Mad Men for that matter, Masters of Sex has less vitriol for its characters — it doesn’t seem to want to torture them by sending them through the same plots or psychological traps. If anything, Ashford imbues her characters with almost achronological flashes of boldness and aggression. (Its soundtrack takes risks — some more successful than others — with almost jarringly contemporary and lyric-laden music.) We’re watching the 1950s from 2013, but there’s a great deal of the show that feels like it’s knowingly (and playfully) responding to a 2013 audience. The collapse of modern sensibilities with the quirks of 1950s pre-feminism gives a certain vantage — you might even call atmosphere — to Masters of Sex. And the sexually-liberated, modern, and frank Virginia Johnson is even more so when portrayed by Lizzy Caplan. It’s an odd mix, but the noted coyness of such directorial and casting decisions doesn’t seem to poke fun at its characters, actors, or viewers either. For one, play seems more consensual. The oppressed or stagnant atmosphere that can often plague period pieces (Downton Abbey, anyone?) is one that Masters of Sex has so far eluded. Perhaps it’s by virtue of, as Phil described, Ashford’s choice to tell more than show, that allows viewers greater space to choose how they see this particular story.

The subject of inquiry — the scandal at the heart of this new drama — might be sex, but even as evinced in the pilot, sex manifests itself (in life and on television) in a panoply of forms and scenarios, each effected by a complex array of motivations (even if part of the motivation is to not give this motivation much cognitive weight). Sex both is and isn’t easy to generalize. The show does not denaturalize or deglamorize sex — or it doesn’t do so consistently. It shows us various scenes of lovemaking with couples we have varied levels of investment and interest in. Some are played for laughs (“Good for you,” Betty says, after her first partner comes), while others, such as the scene between Masters’s first consenting experimental couple — contain very attractive individuals, but emphasize that this is for their pleasure as much as it is for the viewer’s. These scenes want to have it both ways — as the couple gets lost in their own ecstatic enjoyment, I’m not sure we always follow suit.

If anything, we grow closer to the couple at the heart of this show, which brings us back to the earnestness — the classic drama-ness of this show. Watching this experimental couple have sex (in the name of science!) is also to watch Masters and Johnson watch a couple have sex (the two leads are never outside our purview in this scene: Sheen and Caplan, or their reflections, are markedly present throughout) and as we might expect from the episode’s cutting patterns, this scene sonically and thematically overlaps with the next (and closing) one with Masters describing the dangers of transference in their experiments:

I have one concern about the possibility of sexual transference between us and our patients. We’re going to be watching them have sex and those couples know we’re watching them, and the likelihood of us transferring all this libidinous energy onto our patients is high.

Johnson asks if this is something he’s been having trouble with; Masters replies no, but that he already sees the beginnings of it in her interactions with male patients. Freud would have diagnosed this retort as projection. Masters and Johnson might have aimed to debunk Freud, but it’s unlikely any contemporary viewer of the show can watch it without Freud’s heavy and pervasive influence. Still, as viewers, our interaction with Masters of Sex might not need be quite so overdetermined. The pilot might have been uneven and oddly paced, but this has only helped sustain my curiosity (call it prurience even) in the show.

Taking the weekend to think about it,

Jane

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caplanmasters

Exposing Yourself on Television

MASTERS OF SEX, “PILOT”

Dear Television,

FIRST OF ALL, it’s great to be back at the LARB. I’m also excited to be back covering an early sixties period drama about sex, ambition, and women in the workplace with all of you. (And no, I’m not talking about ABC’s Pan Am.) I’m talking, of course, about Showtime’s new original series Masters of Sex about the sex researchers Masters and Johnson, starring Lizzy “She’s So Fantastic, She Should Really Get Her Own TV Show” Caplan and Michael “Wesley Snipes” Sheen, and debuting in the enviable/unenviable slot after Homeland Sunday nights. If only because, at a very basic level, Masters of Sex is not a series about the investigation of the grisly murder of a beautiful young woman in a small town, I’m in. But, more than that, it’s a funny, really very well-acted, oddly ambitious piece of historical fiction. And, despite the fact that I honestly cannot think of a sillier title for it — Sex Masters, Johnson and Johnsons, Nudity Party U.S.A. 1959 — I’m very bullish about its prospects.

That said, it’s got a weird pilot. And, for this opening post, I want to stitch our lineage as a blog together with Masters of Sex’s as a series, and talk a little bit about how the nagging muscle memory of Mad Men makes this pilot even weirder to watch. It’s an obvious, not entirely generous, comparison to yoke these shows together. Unlike the previously mentioned Pan Am, there’s very little evidence to suggest that Masters is in any way an effort to jack Mad Men’s style and cache — though I’m sure an early sixties setting is not exactly a liability in a pitch meeting at Showtime — and while Masters is portrayed as something of an aspirationally lecherous heel in this episode, he’s by no means a Golden Age anti-hero. Masters of Sex is not, in other words, a Mad Men rip-off, and the longer we talk about them in the same breath the more difficult it will be for an audience to build around the new series. But looking especially at this first episode in the context of Mad Men’s, I think we can figure out a little bit about what makes this pilot feel slightly off, and also what makes this pilot thrillingly unique.

One of the most notable quirks of the pilot is its heavy — sometimes almost unseemly — reliance on exposition. Masters is literally introduced to the audience by his provost at a gala in his honor, Johnson gives Masters a fairly detailed outline of her marital history and previous education in a job interview, Johnson explains her philosophy of liberated adult sexuality to her lover on numerous occasions, the lover responds by articulating — as if from a history textbook about social attitudes of the 1950s — his own philosophy about the relationship between love and sex, and we’re told quite plainly that Masters doesn’t care about having the child he and his wife are attempting to conceive, that he has a low sperm count, and, a few more times than is necessary, that Masters’s career is in jeopardy.

It’s perhaps understandable that this show is so forthcoming so fast. Created by Michelle Ashford, a veteran of HBO’s Pacific and John Adams miniseries, Masters of Sex is not a program all that interested in mystery. Like those miniseries, this show is a talky, action-packed exploration of historical events that we already know to have been hugely important — though the action here tends more toward laboratory sex than open warfare. But, unlike that other contemporary historical fiction The Newsroom, Masters of Sex is already signaling its preference for depicting the small-bore, messily executed machinations of history rather than the grandiose, benighted movements of Great Men and the Women Who Inspire Them. This could easily have been a series with more opaque leads, more of a slow roll-out, but the quick and clean establishment of back-stories, motivations, sexual philosophies, and potential entanglements sets us up for a different kind of show, a show less concerned with foreplay than sexy, messy process. Why obscure the Google-able biographies of your two leads, when you can get down to the business of showing how the giant electric dildo camera gets made.

Mad Men, for its part, is a series that feeds on the unsaid, the winkingly-acknowledged, the invisible. Especially in its treatment of female sexuality and the stirrings of workplace feminism — but even in its establishment of Don’s secret past — the show prefers showing to telling, inarticulate impulses to articulated ethics, dramatic irony to intentionality and agency. Peggy accidentally begins her climb on the corporate ladder, Joan exercises sexual freedom only under the guise and through the performance of courtship rituals, the secretaries of Sterling Cooper are presented as innocently, regrettably on the hunt for husbands amongst the rascally junior employees in Pete’s office. Sex, on Mad Men, is either in appearance or reality, in control of the men. Joan may initiate a cha cha, but she won’t take the lead.

The pilot of Masters of Sex renders immediately visible and articulate everything that Mad Men has spent six seasons silently layering. In the form of Virginia Johnson, the emergence of a modern female subjectivity is not set up as an arc on Masters of Sex so much as it is taken as a given. A canny, sex-positive, openly ambitious single mother and divorcee, Johnson begins the pilot episode in the secretarial pool and ends it as a vocal, quasi-acknowledged partner in Dr. William Masters’s sex research project. There are a few throwaways about why a lowly secretary is lecturing the provost of Washington University in St. Louis, and I’m sure that the series will have things to say about the gender imbalances in both the university workplace and in the field of science. But we meet Virginia Johnson at the end of her early struggle, and her problems at the end of the pilot are the kind of next-level problems faced by Peggy and Joan in the sixth season of Mad Men.

More importantly, though, it gives us a female lead — played by Lizzy Caplan with a kind of constitutional brassiness — who begins the series with a sense of franchise and power. Even if it feels clunky at first, there’s something exciting about a series that isn’t going to make us wait around for the moment when an oppressed woman finds the courage/outlet to speak. Sopranos, Deadwood, Breaking Bad, Mad Men — the woman who slowly, and at great cost, finds her voice is practically a genre convention of serial television’s “Golden Age.” And while Peggy, for example, is presented as a triumph, let’s not forget the misogynist vitriol that an arc like this can encourage against a character like Skyler White. And let’s not also forget that David Chase himself characterized Carmella Soprano’s resistance as the hypocrisy of a “housewife whore.” In other words, narratives of female self-empowerment don’t always play as narratives of progress in television’s Golden Age. And Masters of Sex provides a different way around this convention. Virginia Johnson joins Homeland’s Carrie Mathison as a female protagonist who, though beset by structural inequality, has a voice to begin with.

This makes Masters of Sex a very different kind of social fiction and a very different kind of historical fiction as well. The episode ends with two particularly brutal moments. First, after her first big success as Masters’s partner, Johnson’s lover has a Pete Campbell-style tornadic meltdown about being used sexually. He claims he’s in love with her, she counters that they just have a friendly, consensual sexual relationship. As if in an outtake from the John Cassavetes remake of Friends With Benefits, her lover smacks her in the face, and she punches him back. The episode then closes a few scenes later with an equal emotional brutality when Masters suggests to Johnson that they should have sex as part of the research program. As explicit as Masters of Sex is about Johnson’s fully-formed sexual politics, it is as explicit, if not more so, about the cost of that position. The ending feels pat to me, and Masters’s proposition really feels more like a fifth or sixth episode revelation, but it’s an intriguing aesthetic choice to begin, often literally, with everything on the table. It’s been mentioned, rightly, that Caplan’s performance, while strikingly modern, is not quite anachronistic. But what if anachronism is this show’s game? What if characters don’t change with the times but before the times? How does a person live in that kind of precariousness?

This pilot required a lot of adjustment for me, especially I think because of the way I’ve been trained as a viewer. Despite its fairly mundane setting, this felt like a different mode of address, a generically unrecognizable hour. In part, I think, that’s because this show is concerned with the limits, risks, and possibilities of exposure. What we’re being set up to see is an open-ended series about the toll that telling can take on a person, on a relationship, on a society. From Cheever to Chase and Weiner and Gilligan, there’s been a lot of lying on television for the last 15 years. What does it feel like to stop?

We are doctors for Chrissakes,

Phil.

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