I hate to reduce a smart show like Masters of Sex down to a juvenile “whoa, boobies!” but that was a big part of my reaction to the pilot episode. The new Showtime series is a dramatization of the lives of Dr William Masters, cohort Virginia Johnson and their vanguard research into human sexuality. It is a compelling show, the acting thus far is strong and the photography and setting capture the time period well.
I’ve been a fan of Capaln’s since being roped in by the relationship of Henry (Adam Scott) and Casey (Capaln) on the sublime Starz original Party Down. The on-screen chemistry between these two characters was both charming and palatable. I’m always happy to hear when Ms. Caplan gets more acting work, (Conversely, I’m amazed that fellow Mean Girls alum Rachel McAdams repeatedly lands high profiles gigs. Imagine, Lizzy playing Irene Adler in Sherlock Holmes… alas) so I was looking forward to her playing a meaty role like Virginia Johnson and she is excellent in it. And I’ll admit I was secretly excited to see if Showtime would raise her sexy quotient a bit, but as they say, be careful what you wish for.
Virginia Johnson, as portrayed in Masters of Sex, is the type of woman that folks in the 1950s would call “loose” but we would call “liberated”. She is a former singer who is twice divorced and has a casual attitude toward sex. This makes her a perfect candidate to assist Dr. Masters with his controversial research. Within the first 15 minutes of episode one, we get: Lizzy Caplan’s Boobs – and I’m not talking side boob with a strategically placed arm covering the nipples, or a quick, drop-the-towel-then-cut-away shot. No, we’re talking a full R-rated sex scene with both breasts in all their glory. I was not fully prepared for this and I’ve been trying to figure out why.
Lizzy seems like an actress who is pretty comfortable with her body, so why shouldn’t I be? I think it comes down to the on-screen persona that she has developed over her career. To be fair, Hollywood casting directors are probably more responsible for this persona than is Ms. Caplan. She doesn’t get cast as the “hot” girl; she plays the hot girl’s snarky friend. I guess this is why the graphic nature of her Showtime scenes surprised me so much. Lizzy reminds me of that girl we all know: She’s cute and fun and at least one of your friends secretly pines away for her – usually your socially inept friend who won’t have his first make out session until senior year of college – But it just seems weird to think of her sexually. Maybe it’s because you knew each other before puberty kicked in. Maybe it’s because you saw her crying that time when she bombed a job interview. Sure there was that one pool party when you saw her in a bathing suit and probably would have made a move if you didn’t have to take your drunk-idiot buddy home early; but even if the two of you had hooked up you would have felt totally awkward about it later. Lizzy Caplan is that girl and the MOS pilot is like finding a sex tape she made with one of her old boyfriends. When your stoner roommate bought the tape home you said, “sure, let’s check it out”, but now you’ve seen it and you just feel a little dirty. You kind of want to drive to Lizzy’s house and apologize for watching it, but you also kind of want to watch it again… when your roommate isn’t home.
Man, I think I might have a thing for Lizzy Caplan. Looks like I will probably be writing more about this show.