Masters of Sex: Season 1 (2013)


Season 1
Masters of Sex

Critics Consensus

Seductive and nuanced, Masters of Sex features smart performances, deft direction, and impeccable period decor.



Critic Ratings: 59


Audience Score

User Ratings: 794

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Air date: Sep 29, 2013

Stylish, smart and provocative new US drama, set in the 1950s, chronicling the relationship between the couple who risked everything and gave birth to the sexual revolution while struggling with their own issues of success, betrayal and jealousy. Masters of Sex stars Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as the real-life pioneers of the science of human sexuality, Dr William Masters and Virginia Johnson. The series documents their unusual lives, romance and journey to pop-culture prominence, a process that saw them go from a Midwestern teaching hospital to the cover of Time magazine and TV host Johnny Carson's couch. 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. In the first episode, William Masters, a doctor in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology at Washington University in St Louis, runs a successful medical practice by day and conducts a secret study of human sexuality by night. Former nightclub singer Virginia Johnson is recruited to join the secretarial staff at the hospital and soon proves to be a valuable asset to Masters' work.

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Air date: Oct 6, 2013

Masters blames Johnson when the sexual response study is forced out of the hospital. To continue his research, Masters moves the study to a brothel but soon realizes that to manage the chaos of the cathouse he needs Johnson's help.

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Air date: Oct 13, 2013

Research continues in the brothel but skewed data convinces Masters to get the study back into the hospital. Meanwhile, Johnson meets a new female doctor; Libby struggles to conceive; and Dr. Haas gets the case of a lifetime: a woman pregnant with quadruplets.

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Air date: Oct 20, 2013

New participants are recruited on campus for the study and Johnson is shocked when her ex-husband wants to sign up. Meanwhile, Masters' mother visits but her new take on life stirs up painful memories; and Libby's attempt at playing matchmaker for Virginia and Ethan doesn't go as smoothly as she had hoped.

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Air date: Oct 27, 2013

The study is expanded to include couples. Meanwhile, Johnson tries to connect with her son who prefers to spend time with his dad; Masters becomes anxious about becoming a father; and Ethan learns that dating the provost's daughter could impact his medical career.

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Air date: Nov 3, 2013

Libby and Masters travel to Miami for rest, but he is drawn back into his work by a sexually adventurous couple next door. Meanwhile, Virginia tries to debunk Freud's theory that one kind of female orgasm is better than another; and Langham finds an unlikely cure for his sexual dysfunction in Margaret Scully.

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Air date: Nov 10, 2013

Masters and Johnson become participants in their sexual response study, but Johnson fears their work is interfering with Masters' home life. Meanwhile, Libby pressures Dr. Haas to resume her fertility treatments in secret; Haas struggles to let go of his feelings for Virginia as his relationship with Vivian deepens; and Margaret Scully confronts her husband about their troubled marriage.

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Air date: Nov 17, 2013

Masters and Johnson decide the best way to record their findings is to film them, but to do so they have to enlist outside help. Meanwhile, Johnson redoubles her efforts to get a college degree; Scully takes drastic steps to control his sexual impulses; and Haas and Langham convince each other of the merits of being a married man.

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Air date: Nov 24, 2013

Masters and Johnson decide to film external reactions in the study, and must convince Lester and Jane that their footage won't cross the line into pornography. Meanwhile, Haas reveals he is Jewish; Libby keeps her pregnancy a secret from Masters; and Estabrooks observes Masters and Johnson's intimate relationship.

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Air date: Dec 1, 2013

Conflicts escalate at the hospital during a nationwide civil defense drill; a former study participant reveals that she is pregnant and wants to know the identity of the father; Masters and Johnson disagree over whether to maintain study confidentiality; Haas learns he has been denied a job at the hospital; Margaret Scully seeks answers about her husband's sexuality from an unlikely source.

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Masters of Sex: Season 1 Photos

Tv Season Info

The lives of sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson are depicted in this critically acclaimed drama. Series 1 begins with Masters (Michael Sheen), a successful OB/GYN at St. Louis' Washington University, conducting a secret study of human sexuality. Soon, he meets Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan), a former nightclub singer who is now part of the hospital secretarial staff. He enlists her help with his study, and she quickly proves to be an asset to Masters' work. Together, they delve deeper than anyone before them into the science of sex and later become participants in their own research, which takes an unforeseen toll on Masters' married life.

News & Interviews for Masters of Sex: Season 1

Critic Reviews for Masters of Sex Season 1

Audience Reviews for Masters of Sex: Season 1

  • Apr 05, 2021
    Here's the problem with this series: it's fairly well written, very well acted but Dr. William Masters is written in such a flawed way that it sucks the oxygen out of the entire story. The movie version portrayed Masters as an inquisitive, naive, awkward physician. This series portrays him as a bitter, tyrannical, cold and petty man. And I can't speak from a biographical standpoint but I'm guessing no doctor would make any real strides in any kind of research (let alone sexual) if he was as difficult, cantankerous and argumentative as the character makes him out to be. There's clinical (as most physicians are) and then there is just downright unlikable and miserable. Creative license dictates that writers get to take some liberties with character development...they could have made the doctor complex and deep and challenging without making him an unbearable, miserable man. It's a case of one bad apple spoiling the whole lot. The character is such a gross part of the story that it genuinely removes any curiosity I have about his story, his life or indeed, this story. To be fair, I'm only 4 episodes in and Johnson's story arc is compelling and interesting but Dr. Steven's makes me want to turn the story off completely. I imagine he changes as a character but honestly right now I can't fathom how this series has made it to a second season let alone 3 additional seasons. Lesson to writers: you can creat very difficult and complex characters...even really evil, disgusting characters without writing them as massive, intolerable a-holes. Look at some of the classic TV dramas...the landscape of the history of the best shows ever made for television...they all have bad guys and protagonists and antagonists...hell, look at Gus from Breaking Bad: the guy was as evil as a character can be written but he was compelling and complex and not written as someone you couldn't bear to be around or listen to. That's what the writers did to the character of Dr Stevens in this series. And as the main character, nothing else really matters. If your lead characters are so unlikeable that you can't make it through the first several episodes, the writers have failed...ratings be damned, this is not an enjoyable series to watch because the main character is written the way a 3rd grader would draw an evil monster: all heavy hands and no subtlety or complexity. Update: after watching the full series, I am stumped as to how high the scores and ratings are. The story itself and the editing style makes it feel like a soap opera. And I feel like that says it all. The acting is incredible...there isn't even room for improvement in that regard. Honestly. All-star cast that really goes the distance. I can't help but wonder what this cast could do if they had a solid script with better writing.
  • Sep 04, 2019
    Slow, but grows on you and tells an incredible true story.
  • Apr 08, 2019
    William Masters and Virginia Johnson were at the cutting edge of scientific exploration in the mid-1950s with the introduction of their study on the bodily responses to sexual stimulation both alone and with a partner. It was a study that revolutionized people's understandings of the human body and sex. In an era where sex and radicalization were taboo, Masters and Johnson bucked the norms and proved to be forces to be reckoned with. Showtime's "Masters of Sex" is the epitome of late-night-cable with sensuality, titillation and occasional gratuitous sex scenes, but the true strength of the show lies in the character study the audience is given. Michael Sheen excels as the buttoned-up Dr. Masters and Lizzy Caplan, best known for her comedic performances, gives a nuanced turn as Ms. Johnson, a woman ahead of her time in both gumption and sexual prowess. Put together, Sheen and Caplan sizzle with a chemistry that cannot be put into words. The audience needs to see it to understand the sheer raw power behind it. However, it isn't just Sheen and Caplan who carry the show. The series introduces a gamut of beautiful people from Libby Masters (Caitlin FitzGerald), Bill's beautiful wife who wants nothing more than to have a family but whom Bill can't stand to touch, to Betty DiMello (Annaleigh Ashford) the lesbian prostitute who is Bill's first test subject who also tells the doc that faking an orgasm is a thing women do. There is also Monroe-esque Jane (Helene York), a secretary who participates in the study to have sex with playboy doctor Austin Langham (Teddy Sears). The incomparable Beau Bridges rounds out the cast as the provost of Washington University, Barton Scully, who is a closeted homosexual yet married to Margaret played heartbreakingly by Allison Janey. However, the true stars of the show are FitzGerald and Caplan. The normal gender roles in television are thrown out the window in "Masters of Sex" as Libby and Virginia are best friends and they actually like each other despite both of them being tied to Bill so intricately. Not only that, Libby and Virginia are two sides of the same coin. Where Virginia is a no-nonsense career girl who sleeps with friends, Libby is the epitome of typical 1950s ideals but there is a change in their character dynamics as the first season progresses. Virginia becomes a bit more Libby and Libby becomes a bit more Virginia, but both do so to varying results. In the shadow of these interminable women is Sheen. There is a power in Sheen, a charm, that makes Masters almost likeable despite the fact that he is a monster, and that is the reason "Masters of Sex" is so watchable. The sex scenes are clinical in nature and treated as such. They serve a purpose, but watching Sheen as Masters softens and comes to terms with his repression and his dislike of Libby and his admiration and, dare I say, love of Virginia is the bread and butter of the show. The fact that Sheen never won an award for his portrayal as Bill is a travesty. The sex scenes in "Masters of Sex" are what will pull some viewers in and that's okay. This show is a guilty pleasure but, to be honest, there should be no guilt about it. What should keep viewers binging (if viewers can find it on streaming, that is) is the beautiful character development and relationships these characters have with one another.
  • Dec 29, 2015
    Smart and funny. The plot flows slowly but each episode has something to tell us. It takes some time to grow an affection for the show but it will get into you eventually. Its strenght lies in the talented actors and in the well developed relationship between characters.
  • Nov 19, 2015
    Keep watching - it will get better eventually... :)
  • Jan 29, 2015
    This is my new favorite show, I think it is the best show that I have seen since Game of Thrones. I thought the performances by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan were great. I can not wait for season two.
  • Dec 29, 2014
    Amazing performance by Lizzy Caplan, who is in my opinion, 75% of the show. It's a good drama, but a little bit of "soap opera" kind for me. Yet, Lizzy's worth every minute I spent watching season 1 and will spend watching season 2 and seasons ahead
  • Aug 29, 2014
    Michael Sheen can get it.
  • Aug 02, 2014
    Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan are absolutely brilliant!
  • Jun 23, 2014
    FOR ADULTS ONLY!!! As Season Two nears, Season One is being released on DVD. Watch for this series to receive many Emmy nominations. Beau Bridges and Allison Janney for sure. A look at the sexual hangups from the 1950's, that some still exsist today. It's the story of sex researchers Masters and Johnson. Let me repeat: FOR ADULTS ONLY!!!

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