If you don’t have Showtime, you may not yet have caught up with the series “Masters of Sex.” Now is your chance; it arrived on disc Tuesday.
Do so, that is, if you are an adult. The drama is often explicit in its consideration of what Americans did in the bedroom (and other rooms) in the years before and during the crucial research into sexuality by William Masters and Virginia Johnson.
“Masters of Sex: Season One” (Sony, 12 episodes, $55.99 DVD, $65.99 Blu-ray) follows the process by which Masters (Michael Sheen) began his research and how it changed, especially once Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) became part of it. The first season covers their meeting and earliest collaborations; a second season begins July 13 on Showtime.
It also lets us into the lives of people with good and bad sex lives, and the emotional consequences of both; look especially for a fine performance by Allison Janney. And it begins to trace the relationship between the married Masters and divorced Johnson, which led to their marriage (and, much later, divorce).
Based on the book of the same name by Thomas Maier, and developed for TV by Michelle Ashford, the series is sometimes funny, often despairing about its repressive times, but also uplifting as it shows what happened when women especially began to understand more about the way their bodies work – and the simple act of talking about sex made help possible for frustrated or uninformed couples.
Sheen is excellent as Masters, a chilly soul who at first views sex as little more than an accumulation of data. Caplan is even better, presenting Johnson as a vigorous woman in a time and place where such vigor is something to be whispered about; for women, she becomes sex’s Prometheus, bringing the fire to everyone who would end up reading Masters and Johnson’s findings.
The DVD release also includes cast commentary on the first episode, deleted scenes and three featurettes: one on the making of the series and one each with Sheen and Caplan discussing their roles. The Blu-ray adds a conversation with Maier and a piece about some of Masters and Johnson’s discoveries about sex.
• Admirers of Bill Cosby and vintage television should look for “I Spy: The Complete Series” (Timeless Media, 82 episodes, $129.99 standard DVD). The 1965-68 series starred Cosby and Robert Culp as globetrotting secret agents. It looked good, the dialogue was sharp and the supporting cast impressive; people who think of ’60s TV as bland will have a different notion just from the first “I Spy,” with Ivan Dixon as an American athlete who has defected to China; you can also see Cicely Tyson in a supporting role.
The lone extra is a booklet with episode descriptions, photos and a short essay about the series.
• Also new is “The Bridge: The Complete First Season” (Fox, $39.98 DVD, $49.99 Blu-ray), the crime drama set on the border between the United States and Mexico. The second season begins July 9 on FX.
• Down video road: “The Blacklist,” the NBC series starring James Spader, brings its first season to Blu-ray and DVD on Aug. 12. “The Originals: The Complete First Season” arrives in both formats on Sept. 2. Before Deadwood, Ian McShane was a TV star in “Lovejoy,” and the first season comes to DVD on Tuesday. “Spartacus: The Complete Series” comes to Blu-ray on Sept. 16.