Masters of Sex and the difficult third album syndrome hypothesis


It’s certainly a truism to say that most music artists find their third album the most difficult – their debut full of accumulated best songs and their second expectantly snapped up by the fanbase. The third though is where the hard work really starts – proving they’ve got the chops to stay the distance.

The exact same could be said for most TV series too of course and “difficult third album syndrome” is something Showtime’s Masters of Sex has been struggling with this season (which still has two more episodes to go). Too often it has felt like a treading water exercise rather than a pushing the story forward one.

With the introduction of Daniel Logan (a prominent investor played by Josh Charles) the dynamic between Bill (Michael Sheen) and Virginia (Lizzy Caplan) has shifted with Bill getting too far pushed out to the edge of things at times. Michael Sheen has had so little to do that he may well have not been in the show this season at all. Also whilst having fictitious and composite characters in major roles has always been a part of the series (this is a drama not a documentary even if it is based on real people), this season it has been in danger of losing sight of the real story altogether.

Not to say that it has been all filler and no killer – there has still been much to enjoy, Libby’s relationship with neighbour Paul (Ben Koldyke) has blossomed into something wonderful for both of them and that has had us cheering. The return of Margaret Scully (Allison Janney) and Dr Austin (Teddy Sears) albeit only for little more than guest spots has been a plus and as always the production design is gorgeously faultless. Masters of Sex is quite simply the best looking show on television.

Hopefully this third season is not a portent of a general lessening of quality. The story does need to move on and that surely will happen. Bill and Libby are clearly heading for the divorce courts and Bill and Virginia’s second book is due for publication, also the less repressed 1970’s are on the horizon. We shall of course wait and see.