Tag Archives: Showtime

HBO’s Leftovers a non-stop gloomathon

The Leftovers

Justin Theroux stars as beleaguered small-town police chief Kevin Garvey in `The Leftovers,’ which begins its first season Sunday night on HBO.


The Leftovers, an ambitious new HBO series adaptation of Tom Perrotta’s best-selling novel premiering Sunday night, opens with what is arguably its best scene. Three years ago, on Oct. 14, a frazzled young mother has just finished doing her laundry in a grimy laundromat, and now she’s buckling her whining infant into his car seat. That mission accomplished, she gets into the driver’s seat, chatting on her phone with someone at home, but then notices her baby has gone silent. No, wait. He’s just gone.
Panicking, she jumps out of the car and starts frantically calling the child’s name. Simultaneously, a few feet away in the same parking lot, a little boy begins screaming for his suddenly missing father, a grocery cart still in motion from where the dad had been pushing it a split second ago. In the distance, we see a serious car accident as one car, abruptly driverless, plows into another, badly injuring that driver.
Such eerie incidents are happening, not only here in rustic Mapleton, N.Y., but all around the globe, where mathematicians eventually will estimate that two percent of the world’s population has gone missing. Among those who were not spirited away, many of them surmise that the Rapture has occurred and they have been tried by heaven and found undeserving.
But is it? The more people look at who was taken, the less sense this “Sudden Departure” seems to make. Those who vanished on that Oct. 14 seemed to be a mystifyingly random collection. In addition to the righteous and heroic, that group also included known rapists, pedophiles, drug pushers, abusive parents and other heinous types. (In the only truly funny moment that occurs during the four episodes HBO provided for screening, we learn via a newscast in a bar that the Departed also included celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, Gary Busey, Jennifer Lopez and Shaquille O’Neal, among others).
Their loved ones snatched away by a bizarre event that surpasses comprehension, the remaining Mapleton residents struggle to find some meaning in their loss. Some suffer mental breakdowns. Some commit suicide. Others, like wife and mother Laurie (Amy Brenneman, Private Practice), leave their families to join a weird new fellowship that calls itself the Guilty Remnant. Its members, most of them chainsmokers, dress entirely in white and never speak, not even when alone with each other. Inherently non-confrontational, they travel in pairs and stand mutely yet prominently in public places, or quietly stalk local citizens who have caught their eye. They are not very popular.
The Guilty Remnant’s apparent purpose is to make sure no one forgets that the Sudden Departure happened. But to what end? The group doesn’t seem to attach explicitly religious significance to the event, nor can they shed any light on what it means. Four episodes in, I’m still completely stumped.
At the heart of The Leftovers is the Garvey family. The father, Kevin (Justin Theroux), is the town’s stressed-out police chief who realizes he is sitting on a pressure cooker that could blow at any moment. That’s true at home, too. His wife is gone, so three years after the event, Kevin and his headstrong teenage daughter, Jill (Margaret Qualley), are just trying to pretend that the “old normal” still prevails. Meanwhile, Kevin’s son, Tom (Chris Zylka), has drifted into the orbit of a cult leader (Paterson Joseph), who calls himself Holy Wayne and offers to “hug the pain away” for his acolytes, especially if they are underage Asian girls.
I absolutely get that The Leftovers is tackling some very big, very complex questions about the nature of life, the meaning of death, man’s relationship to God and the universe, lots of the biggies. And I applaud co-creators Perrotta and Damon Lindelof (Lost) for their courage and ambition. The huge ensemble — which also includes Ann Dowd (Michael Sheen’s mother in Showtime’s Masters of Sex), Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who) and a beguiling theater-trained newcomer named Carrie Coon – turns in consistently strong work as well.
All that said, too much of The Leftovers is a real slog. Relentlessly somber even when it’s not aggressively depressing, the series just started to wear me down after awhile, and I’m not a guy who needs something to blow up on a regular basis to keep me entertained. I haven’t read Perrotta’s novel, but what may be fully engaging on the page too often feels inert and listless when we see it acted out. Case in point: the extended “conversations” between members of the Guilty Remnants, which force us to watch as one person scribbles down his “line” and shows it to the other person, who then takes his/her tablet and writes down the response and holds it up, etc., etc. If you think that doesn’t make for compelling television, well, you’d be right.
I watched all four of the episodes pretty much straight through, which is definitely not the way you want to approach such bleak material. On the other hand, it did make me feel immersed in the world of this story – because after four hours, I was ready to scream “Take me! Take me now!”
HBO's 'The Leftovers' with Amy Brenneman.

Laurie (Amy Brenneman) retreats to a mute existence in the Guilty Remnant in ‘The Leftovers’ on HBO.

Showtime’s Penny Dreadful a lively monster mash

'Penny Dreadful'

Josh Harnett, Eva Green, Danny Sapani and Timothy Dalton (from left) star in ‘Penny Dreadful,’ premiering tonight on Showtime.


Penny Dreadful, the hugely entertaining new eight-episode Showtime series premiering tonight, takes its title from the lurid serialized horror stories that sold for a penny at Victorian newsstands (the Stephen Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd is based on one such yarn). Happily, there’s nothing either cheap or dreadful about this lavish and completely unpredictable new period drama.
John Logan, the Chicago-born Tony-winning playwright and Oscar-nominated screenwriter (Skyfall), strives to capture the spooky, often gory spirit of those vintage chillers by weaving together recognizable figures from literature, such as ageless lothario Dorian Gray and obsessed Dr. Victor Frankenstein, with original characters of his own, whom he brings together and sends off on a delightfully macabre mission.
Penny Dreadful opens in 1891 London, in the aftermath of the unsolved Jack the Ripper murders. As the police turn their attention to a new spate of gruesome crimes, celebrated explorer Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton) comes to enigmatic spiritualist Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) with a plea for help: His daughter, Mina (the name is a tip-of-the-hat to Dracula), has gone missing. Both Malcolm and Vanessa suspect that supernatural forces are afoot, so they enlist the assistance of American Wild West sharpshooter Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) and, sure enough, soon stumble into a nest of feral vampires.
As their quest takes one unexpected turn after another, their party is joined by Dr. Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), whose own studies into the thin veil between life and death dovetail nicely with Malcolm’s mission. Not long after that, the group encounters Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney from Broadway’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) and Brona Croft (Billie Piper, Doctor Who), a consumptive Irish beauty. Other distinguished guest stars include a hilarious Simon Russell Beale as Ferdinand Lyle, a flamboyant Egyptologist, and Helen McCrory as Madame Kali, a (probably fake) clairvoyant.
Beyond that, I won’t spoil any of the surprises awaiting Penny Dreadful viewers – partly because, two episodes in, I honestly don’t know where the hell Logan is going with this nutty narrative. Suffice it to say that both episodes I’ve seen feature absolutely top-tier special effects and, much like those old horror tales snapped up by titillation-hungry Victorians, each episode ends with a jaw-dropping twist that will leave you jonesing for the next installment.
Harry Treadaway

Harry Treadaway stars as Victor Frankenstein in ‘Penny Dreadful.’

Gay friends go Looking for happiness on HBO

The new HBO series 'Looking' premieres Sunday on HBO.

Frankie J. Alvarez, Jonathan Groff and Murray Bartlett (from left) star as three gay friends looking for love and success in San Francisco in ‘Looking,’ a new HBO dramedy series premiering Sunday.


Looking, a new half-hour dramedy premiering Sunday on HBO, follows three closely knit gay men in San Francisco as each enters a period of transition.
At 31, Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez), a frustrated artist, has nervously just agreed to move from the heart of the city to share quarters with his long-term boyfriend (O-T Fagbenle) in suburban Oakland, while Dom (Murray Bartlett) is staring down the barrel of his 40th birthday, painfully aware that he has spent most of his adult life as a waiter and kept his dreams of opening his own restaurant on hold for far too long.
As for their mutual best friend, Patrick (Jonathan Groff, Glee), he has just found out that his ex, the only real boyfriend he’s ever had, is getting married four months after their break-up. True, Patrick is the one who did the dumping, but that doesn’t mean he’s any happier about this development, which sends him, at 29, into a frenzied online search for a new boyfriend (and, since Agustin is moving out of their apartment, a new roommate).
As Looking unfolds during its eight-episode first season, each of these characters will, on some level, come to question where he is in his life – especially Patrick, who likes to present himself as relationship-oriented, but never has stayed with a boyfriend for more than five months. He’s equally unfocused in his job as a video games designer, where he spends too much of his time trolling dating sites like OkCupid.
“I don’t think either of us is very good at being what we think we are,” he tells Agustin in a rare moment of self-candor. “Maybe we need to try a little harder.”
Looking is not, of course, the first premium cable series to take a frank look at the lives of gay men. In that respect, the 2000-05 Showtime series Queer as Folk got there first. QAF often featured simulated sexual content so graphic that the series seemed intent not just on pushing the envelope, but setting it on fire and scattering the ashes. Looking is more interested in charting the emotional life of its characters. Yes, there are same-sex love scenes in this new HBO series, but at least based on the first four episodes HBO made available for preview, audiences saw more explicit footage with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in the Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra.
As more than one character in Looking says, “It’s more about intimacy than sex,” which could almost be a mantra for the series. This show is less interested in getting its characters out of their clothes and into bed with each other than in capturing the relaxed, affectionate closeness between these men: the teasing, the flirting, the shared sense of both joy and regret.
Most of the cast probably will be unfamiliar to HBO subscribers, but they have an easy chemistry together that evokes a mutual history. If you only know Groff, a leading man on Broadway, from his two-dimensional guest role on Glee, you’re in for a revelation here, because he’s sensational, capturing every facet of Patrick’s complex personality – especially in his scenes with British actor Russell Tovey (The History Boys), who joins the show in its third episode as Patrick’s new boss (and, one suspects, future love interest).
Looking may revolve mostly around gay men in a Northern California city, but its issues and themes are universal and relatable to anyone with an open heart and mind. If there’s any justice, this smart, beautifully crafted show will find the audience it (and HBO) deserves.
Russell Tovey has a recurring guest role on HBO's 'Looking.'

British actor Russell Tovey (‘The History Boys’) joins ‘Looking’ in its third episode as Patrick’s new boss.

Frank confronts his mortality as Shameless returns

William H. Macy stars in Showtime's 'Shameless.''

As Shameless returns tonight to Showtime, Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy) is forced to realize his body is shutting down after years of nonstop abuse.


When last we saw him in the Season 3 finale of Shameless, the apparently irredeemable Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy) was slipping out of a hospital in a thin dressing gown and stealing away into a frigid wintry night in search of drugs and/or alcohol.
That little errand clearly did not end well, because as Season 4 of the Showtime drama premieres tonight, police raiding a filthy crack den find the Gallagher patriarch passed out and very near death. One of the cops, a Gallagher family friend, brings Frank home, but Fiona (Emmy Rossum) is having none of it, since Frank consistently has put his own addictive needs ahead of his children’s safety. When young Carl (Ethan Cutkosky) stubbornly insists the family take the dying Frank back in, Fiona relents only on the condition that Carl take care of him, like the filthy stray dog their father resembles.
Fiona is still fretting that longtime boyfriend Steve has gone missing without a trace, not knowing that he presumably has been executed by a South American crime lord. She’s also concerned with the whereabouts of her brother Ian (Cameron Monaghan), who has run away to join the Army to get over his breakup with Mickey Milkovich (Noel Gallagher).
There’s another empty bed in the Gallagher household as well: Oldest son Lip (Jeremy Allen White) finally is away at college, although he’s finding his classes quite a bit more challenging than he ever expected. Kid sister Debbie (Emma Kenney), meanwhile, has finally hit puberty and, with it, begun dressing and acting far more provocatively than her age would warrant.
Away from home, things continue to look brighter for Fiona. She’s swiftly advancing in her job at Worldwide Cup, where she has captured the attentions of her nice-guy boss, Mike Pratt (Jake McDorman, Greek). Meanwhile, neighbors Kev and Veronica (Steve Howey, Shanola Hampton) are in for the shock of their lives in their mission to become parents.
Yep, clearly another season of dark, dysfunctional fun is in store on Shameless, adapted from a long-running British comedy.
'House of Lies' returns tonight on Showtime.

Kristen Bell and Don Cheadle return for a third season of comedy in Showtime’s ‘House of Lies.’


Tonight also marks the return of two other (more conventionally funny) Showtime sitcoms, both back for the third seasons. First up is House of Lies, the sharp, bitingly clever comedy set in the dog-eat-dog corporate world. Fans will remember that the jaw-dropping finale to Season 2 ended with Marty (Don Cheadle) going off to start his own agency, without the three other members of his “Pod” going along with him.
In tonight’s season premiere, Marty is indeed at his own shop, but Jeannie and Doug (Kristen Bell, Josh Lawson) are still at Galweather Stern and Clyde (Ben Schwartz), to his everlasting dismay, is now working for Marty’s rageaholic, drug-added ex-wife, Monica (Dawn Olivieri).
At home, Marty is supportive but confused when his sexually ambiguous teenage son, Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.) begins exploring a new relationship that could be a game-changer.
'Episodes' returns tonight to Showtime.

Stephen Mangan, Matt LeBlanc and Tamsin Greig return for another season of frantic comedy tonight in Showtime’s ‘Episodes.’


Right after House of Lies, the Emmy-nominated Episodes returns for a third season of sending up the insanity of life in the world of Hollywood network TV. In tonight’s premiere, married scriptwriters Sean and Beverly Lincoln (Stephen Mangan, Tamsin Greig) have at least tenuously reconciled in their marriage, but Matt (Matt LeBlanc) is still embroiled in a child custody battle with his ex-wife.
At the studio, the ambitious Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins) sees her dreams of being named bead of the network cruelly dashed as the corporate brass decides instead to hire a newcomer. That would be Castor Soto (Chris Diamantopoulos), viewed by many in the industry as a creative genius. Only Castor’s shrink (John Ross Bowie, The Big Bang Theory) knows the truth: Castor is completely nuts, a full-blown schizophrenic who keeps hearing the furniture talking to him.
Showtime helpfully sent out the entire season of Episodes (unlike only the first couple of episodes for the other two returning shows), so I can tell you that while tonight’s premiere starts a little slowly (Sean and Beverly’s marital strain is really getting old as a storyline), series creators David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik have come up with some absolutely delightful twists and turns for this third season – and even, against all odds, contrived yet another finale at the end that both provides closure and also leaves a door open for a Season 4, if Showtime wants one.

Picking ‘Weeds: The Complete Collection’ on Blu-ray

'Weeds: The Complete Collection' comes to Blu-ray today from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

Lionsgate Home Entertainment today releases ‘Weeds: The Complete Collection’ in a Blu-ray box packed with extra features.


When Weeds premiered on Showtime in 2005, few people saw a hit in the offing. The show’s creator, Jenji Kohan, had won an Emmy for working on the Tracey Ullman HBO series Tracey Takes On…, but she was known mainly for being the kid sister of Will & Grace co-creator David Kohan. And the premise of the show – a widowed soccer mom turns to selling marijuana to support her family – seemed risky and weird. Even series star Mary-Louise Parker admits she told her agent at the time there was “no way” this show was going to run.
To everyone’s surprise, however, Weeds lit up the ratings, helping to cement Showtime’s growing reputation as a serious player in original programming and winning a Golden Globe Award for Parker, along with multiple other nominations for its cast and creative team. The saga of improbable drug kingpin (queenpin?) Nancy Botwin ran for eight seasons altogether before wrapping things up in September 2012.
Now, in time for the holiday gift season, Lionsgate Home Entertainment releases today Weeds: The Complete Collection, encompassing the entire series on 16 Blu-ray discs packed with special features in a boxed format that takes up just two inches of shelf space. The suggested retail price for the set is $119, but as of this writing, several online retailers including Amazon are carrying this new release at a heavy discount.
The first three seasons of Weeds took place in the Southern California suburb of Agrestic, a community of McMansions housing identical upwardly mobile families dressed in identical clothes and driving identical cars to shop in identical stores. As the series opened, Nancy’s placid middle-class life was rocked when her young husband, Judah, dropped dead of a heart attack while jogging. Lacking any marketable skills, Nancy turned to dealing pot to maintain this empty lifestyle, one of the satiric hooks on which Kohan hung her story. A number of fans complained when the Botwins went on the road starting in season four (which Kohan and two of her fellow producers acknowledge in one of the special features in the set), but Weeds returned to its suburban roots – this time in Connecticut – for its eighth and final season.
Each of the seasons included in this new Blu-ray collection includes its own set of special features including cast commentaries, gag reels and other highlights, but there are four brand-new extras as well, the most valuable being a Weeds cast roundtable with Parker, her two TV sons (Hunter Parrish and Alexander Gould) and Justin Kirk, who played Nancy’s brother-in-law, Andy. Gould, who was only 10 when he started working on Weeds, reveals that his mother, who was always on the set with him, and the show’s production team shielded the child actor from the show’s more adult moments, even when they involved his character, Shane. As a result, he didn’t understand what several scenes even meant until he started watching the show on DVD after he was older.
It’s Parker, however, who has some of the pithiest comments to offer. She loved playing Nancy, whom she calls “dark and perverse,” but suggests that this woman would have been a terrible mother even if her husband hadn’t died. In fact, she says, she suspects it was Judah, not Nancy, who was the more nurturing parent all along.
“I just thought she always had an astonishing lack of ability to prioritize,” Parker says about Nancy’s lackadaisical attitude toward her sons. “She was a parent who procrastinated: ‘I’m going to pay attention to him later when I can x, y and z,’ ” she says.
Technical quality of this Blu-ray box is state of the art in every respect, making this set one of the season’s top home video gift items for any Weeds fan on your list.
Weeds-S6-PW

Showtime’s ‘Time of Death’ is bleak but rewarding

Lenore Lefer is among the terminally ill patients profiled in the Showtime series 'Time of Death.'

Pancreatic cancer patient Lenore Lefer embraces daughter-in-law Daniella in the second episode of ‘Time of Death’ on Showtime.


Over the years I’ve seen quite a few documentaries about terminally ill patients approaching their final days, but Time of Death, a new six-part series from Showtime premiering tonight, is perhaps the most challenging I’ve ever encountered.
Filmmakers Dan Cutforth and Jane and Alexandra Lipsitz effectively serve notice of their intentions in the opening scene, as we watch 25-year-old Nicole “Little” Lencioni choking back her tears as she makes a phone call to report that she has just found her mother, Maria, dead in her home. It’s a poignant scene that carries a stark warning: “You’re going to care about these people. Just don’t get your hopes up.” No wonder Showtime is billing Time of Death as “a brave new documentary series.”
Maria’s story unfolds in flashback over all six one-hour episodes, with each hour also chronicling the final days of at least one other patient dying of causes ranging from cancer to a rare blood disorder to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Maria, who is 48 when we meet her eight months before her death, has stage four breast cancer. Doctors have told her they can’t cure the cancer, just do what they can to prolong her life, but it’s been more than four and a half years since Maria was diagnosed with a condition that carried a likely prognosis of 18 months to live.
A single mother of three, Maria has made what peace she can with her medical condition, but her two youngest children – Julia, 15, and 14-year-old Andrew – walk on eggshells in the Santa Cruz, Calif., home they share with their mom. They put on a brave front, but they’re both deeply worried that their father – Maria’s ex-husband, whom both teens dislike – will try to get custody of them when Maria finally dies.
They’re pinning their hopes on older half-sister Little, who left her bartending job in Los Angeles a few years ago and moved to Santa Cruz to help her mom and siblings keep it together.
One of the most remarkable characters in the series, Little is heavily tattooed but model-pretty, and she’s managed to forgive Maria for being a “really gnarly” mother when Little was an infant, frequently leaving the baby asleep in the car while Maria went to a bar. She has noticed that Maria seems to have learned from those earlier mistakes, trying to be a good mother to her younger kids despite her illness and, instead of resenting them, Little has grown to love Julia and Andrew very much, stepping in as a surrogate mom to them as needed and taking engineering classes so she can afford to support them all when Maria dies.
“All I hope is that Julia doesn’t have a baby, Andrew doesn’t kill himself and they both do their homework,” she tells her best friend.
It’s impossible to watch Time of Death and not become emotionally invested in this family, as we watch how Maria’s cancer takes its toll on all the members. That’s one of the reasons Lenore Lefer, 75, whose story is told in episode 2, elected to let her pancreatic cancer run its course naturally instead of undergoing debilitating treatments to extend her life. A psychotherapist in the field of death and dying, Lefer had seen the exhausting toll such battles can take on loved ones, so she decided the cure in her case would be worse than the disease itself.
Other patients profiled in Time of Death include Cheyenne Bertiloni, 47, a former mixed martial arts fighter whose ALS diagnosis only motivated him to spend his final days working to rebuild damaged family relationships; Dr. Antronette “Toni” Yancey, a 55-year-old physician, poet, author and former model diagnosed with lung cancer; Laura Kovarik, 63, a breast cancer patient who takes a last road trip with her daughter, Lisa; Morris Bradley Jr., 77, a distinguished Air Force veteran laid low by a genetic blood disorder; Michael John Muth, a Navy veteran with a rare cancer; and the heartbreakingly young Nicolle Kissee, a vibrant 19-year-old fighting for her life against stage-four melanoma.
Time of Death offers an unforgettable gallery of portraits in courage and human resiliency. You’ll have to decide whether you have the strength to pay the price of admission, however.
Stage 4 melanoma patient Nicolle Kissee is profiled in an episode of Showtime's documentary series 'Time of Death.'

A terminal illness can’t diminish 19-year-old Nicolle Kissee’s love of animals in ‘Time of Death’ on Showtime.

Sex, ‘60s style, on Showtime

masters of sex
Showtime’s provocative new dramedy Masters of Sex, which premieres tonight, goes the Mad Men period route in its depiction of the pioneering work by Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson in the field of human sexuality. The series opens in 1966 at a teaching hospital in St. Louis, where gynecologist Masters (Michael Sheen, Frost/Nixon) has built a reputation as the facility’s leading fertility specialist. Off the books, however, Masters has become obsessed with a sketchy side project, paying prostitutes to allow him to observe them, Peeping Tom style, at work with their clients. It’s not mere voyeurism that drives him, though.
“I simply want to answer the question, ‘What happens to the body during sex?,” he tells his skeptical provost, Barton Scully (Beau Bridges).
When Masters says that, we realize that he’s not just talking on a clinical level, because this man is emotionally detached from everyone around him, including his beautiful and adoring wife, Libby (newcomer Caitlin Fitzgerald, heartbreakingly good). Libby desperately wants a baby, since she senses that their marriage is missing something, which isn’t a tough call given that her husband doesn’t even unbutton his dress shirt while having brisk, passionless procreative sex with her. They’ve been doing this for months now, without success, and Bill is telling people it’s because Libby has biological issues that make it hard for her to conceive. A colleague, obstetrician Dr. Ethan Haas (Nicholas D’Agosto), knows the truth, though: Bill himself is very nearly sterile.
Ethan has drifted into an affair with Virginia “Ginny” Johnson (Lizzy Caplan), a twice-divorced former nightclub singer currently supporting herself and her two kids as a secretary at the hospital. A beautiful free spirit, Virginia has a very healthy appreciation of sex, although her life at present is so complicated that she can’t be more than “friends with benefits” with the besotted Ethan. It’s Ethan’s unrequited love for Virginia that puts her on the Bill’s radar, and he soon hires her as his secretary and covert colleague in his sex research.
Although they’ll have a tough row to hoe initially in terms of establishing what role Virginia, who is not a doctor, will play in the studies, Masters and Johnson are, at heart, a perfect match. He’s obsessed with compiling empirical data on human sexual response, while she understands intuitively that a person’s emotional life can has a powerful impact on his erotic experiences.
“Women often confuse sex with physical attraction,” Virginia tells Bill during her job interview. “They often think sex and love are the same thing, but they don’t have to be. They don’t even have to go together. Sex can be perfectly good on its own, whereas love is… .”
She leaves that sentence unfinished, because Virginia, unlike Bill, comprehends the value of something that can’t be quantified. Their disparate viewpoints lead to frequent clashes, but also to some of their most surprising discoveries. When Bill asks Virginia to describe what a woman experiences at the height of sexual gratification, she replies, “That’s like trying to describe salt to someone who never tasted salt.”
“I’ve tasted salt,” Bill responds.
“Not the way I’ve tasted salt,” Virginia says with a little smile.
Sheen, who played Tony Blair in a trilogy of films about British politics including the Oscar-winning The Queen, never cheats by trying to make the chilly Masters more sympathetic than he deserves (Sheen also is a producer on the show), giving a deceptively brilliant performance in this very difficult role. It’s Caplan, however – best known before now for her smart comedy work in such shows as the cult sitcom hit Party Down – who is the absolute revelation here. Her Ginny is sexy, funny, whip-smart and vulnerable, and she conveys all of that while doing most of the heavy lifting in the show’s fairly explicit sex scenes. Former Academy Award nominee John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) directed tonight’s premiere, and Allison Janney has an unforgettable guest appearance in a couple of future episodes as Bridges’ sexually frustrated wife, Margaret.
Masters of Sex is adult entertainment in the finest sense of the phrase. Send the kids to bed and check it out.