Masters of Sex

The Knick

In the seven years since it debuted, there have been several constants in the reaction to Mad Men: the critics have loved it, everyone has nursed a crush on Jon Hamm, and viewers have asked where the black people are. The time span covered by the period drama, from early 1960 until (presumably) the end of 1969, was one of extraordinary shifts in race relations in America. This was the height of the Civil Rights movement, after all. But that’s only happening in the background noise on Mad Men. This is entirely intentional on the part of creator Matthew Weiner and his writing staff, who have made it one facet of the isolated world of Madison Avenue advertising movers and shakers in which the show dwells. It’s debatable whether that’s a justifiable excuse (I can see points both in and against its favor), but even accepting it, there are still times where it’s just odd to be viewing the ’60s through an almost entirely white lens (most notably in the episode that addressed the death of Martin Luther King Jr.). In any case, it might be easier to swallow had the myriad shows produced in the hopes of mimicking Mad Men‘s success not followed its lead on this front. The period piece genre, which gains traction each year, is one of the most lily-white milieus on American television, and that’s even by the standards of the already overwhelmingly white prestige drama herd. Pan Am, Vegas, Magic City, Halt and Catch Fire, Turn – all of them have little-to-no diversity […]

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Warner Bros.

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Winter’s Tale Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is a man out of time in early 20th century New York City. He’s on the run from a devilish mob boss (Russell Crowe) when a last minute detour lands him in love with a socialite (Jessica Brown Findlay) dying of tuberculosis. Can their romance survive human mortality, a Jimi Hendrix-loving Satan and a self-directed script by Akiva Goldsman? Winter’s Tale, so named because some scenes take place when it’s cold out apparently, is a terrible movie in most senses of the word. The romance doesn’t work, the fantastic elements feel out of place, there’s barely a single effective moment of suspense or emotion and the metaphysical message is a confused jumble of words randomly typed by chimpanzees while peyote smoke is blown into their anuses by drunken clergymen. There’s no getting around any of that, and yet… I want you to see it. To experience it. And to confirm for me that I didn’t just dream the whole damn thing. Check out my full review here if you still need convincing. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

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Amy Lippman

This post is in partnership with Cadillac Cadillac and the Producers Guild of America recently launched Make Your Mark, a short film competition that challenges producers to create compelling content with limited resources. Contestants will make a short film over a single weekend in late June, and the 30-second Cadillac spot featuring the grand prize winner’s film will air during the 2015 Academy Awards. Probably the biggest disappointment of The Produced By Conference was the “Courting the Female Audience” panel. Not because of its quality, but because of the fact that it didn’t take place in the biggest theater on the Warner Bros. lot. Since it was in one of the smaller venues, more than a few people must have missed out on what turned out to be an excellent conversation. Panelists Mara Brock-Akil (Being Mary Jane), Marc Juris (President and GM, WE tv), Amy Lippman (Masters of Sex) and Matt Warburton (The Mindy Project) quickly developed a fantastic rapport that made for a highly entertaining exploration of their experiences in television, their female audience and more. Lippman, in particular, delved into the nitty gritty of her highs and lows in television production. The writer and executive producer shared some advice that anyone hoping to go into television should know.

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2013review_tvshows

According to the kind of people who are prone to make such pronouncements, the Golden Age of Television ended this year with the series finale of Breaking Bad. But with more quality television on the air today than is humanly possible to watch, I don’t see how that could possibly be true.  The one big observation about the TV landscape this year that I’d like to make is that there finally seems to be a preponderance of shows about women, a much-needed correction to the masculinity-obsessed, anti-hero shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. I love and admire all of those shows, but I’m glad to see that the new opportunities for original programming that the proliferation of cable and now Netflix and Amazon offers has resulted in more stories about women. Without further ado, my picks for the 13 best shows of 2013:

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Masters of Sex

Here’s some (s)excellent news: Showtime’s Masters of Sex is a fantastically thoughtful and original series. Based on the research (and eventual romance) between real-life sexologists William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the show has overcome a middling pilot and the disadvantage of inevitable comparisons to its mid-century contemporary Mad Men in just three episodes. If Don Draper and company are constantly reacting to the ground moving beneath their feet, with the values of 1960s America undergoing sudden tectonic shifts, Bill Masters (Michael Sheen) and Gini Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) are actively trying to get those seemingly immobile tectonic plates to budge, just a little bit. Even as a renowned OBGYN with the Nobel Prize just out of his reach, Masters has to fight — and fight dirty – to get his university to sponsor studies of human sexuality. (Surprise: it’s not easy to get paid to watch other people doing it.) As a divorced mother of two, the thoroughly modern Gini, who started as Masters’ secretary but will eventually become his equal, has already undergone her own sexual and feminist revolutions – she’s just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up. Luckily, she’s patient. Despite taking place in Eisenhower’s America, Masters of Sex feels like a great advancement forward in TV. It’s not that the show is radically innovative: the small screen is already full of doctors and anti-hero protagonists and slow-burning courtships. But the characters’ forward-looking hopefulness is reflected by the show’s ambitions. Below are three ways in which Masters of Sex distinguishes itself from everything else on TV today (spoilers below):

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Breaking Bad

Spoiler Warning for all both of you who haven’t yet seen Breaking Bad‘s finale. There’s something a little bit curious about a series that gave us one of cable’s most definitive male anti-heroes seeking absolute resolution and closure upon its final hour. But that’s exactly what Breaking Bad did Sunday night, with Vince Gilligan repeatedly pronouncing The Sopranos’ ambiguous ending as its prototype-for-opposition. It’s telling that, amongst all the finales of comparably beloved 21st century cable dramas, Gilligan steered the conversation about the end of Walter White so directly through the terms of David Chase’s game-changer. Sure, both shows have clear points of comparison, as each are violent, regionally specific contemporary tales of a paterfamilias’ less-than-legitimate business tooled toward the visage of a “normal” domestic life, and both shows carried some debated expectations that their respective underworld kingpins would find their demise by the last musical cue (be it provided by Bad Finger or Journey). But more appropriately, these two shows can be seen as bookends to the same greater phenomenon: the golden age of cable’s repeated focus on male anti-heroes to drive their narratives. As many have noted, this trope has brought us some great – or, at least, compelling – shows, but now with the calculated (and certain) death of one of its most celebrated manifestations, it’s time to give this trope a rest and see what else television can do.

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wherethewildthingsare_1

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Masters of Sex

There’s an old marketing cliche that says sex sells. If this is truly the case, then Showtime has successfully set itself up to have the hottest new show on TV once fall rolls around, because it’s newest original program, Masters of Sex, doesn’t just star sexy people like Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, the entire concept of the show revolves around the scientific study of human sexuality. This means that not only will every episode be chock full of sexy talk, but there will also be plenty of room for tons of attractive guest stars to show up and get it on in front of the gaze of Showtime’s cameras. Sounds interesting, no? Of course it does. So click through to watch the network’s new trailer for the show, which will probably get your blood pumping a little faster.

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