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It's time to bring Masters of Sex back to UK screens


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Telly addicts are an easily irritated bunch. We complain if something's been on for too long, we cry if a series is cancelled too soon and we sit in anguish if we're made to wait more than a few months for a new season of our favourite show.

In this digital, 'on demand' climate we currently live and binge-watch in, it's easy to see why we've grown impatient with the once gradual and episodic medium of television. But even by Sherlock standards, in which you wait three years for three new episodes, there are some shows that have been left in the wilderness for so long, you would be forgiven for thinking they'd been cancelled altogether. Masters of Sex is one such show.  

Developed by Michelle Ashford, this American period drama is loosely based on the real-life story of Masters and Johnson - the dynamic research team responsible for pioneering study into human sexual response and effectively bringing the academic focus behind the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s to light. Starring Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson, the show premiered in 2013 and has just started its fourth season in the US on Showtime.

Frustratingly, here in the UK, we're still waiting for the third season to be aired after Channel 4 and More 4, who aired the first two seasons, mysteriously dropped it from their schedule. Quite why isn't clear - and no-one seems to be in a rush to make it more (legally) accessible for English audiences. Why? Well, that's the question that I can't seem to get my head around.

Masters of Sex isn't just another run-of-the-mill series drawing on lazy stereotypes and the biggest fads of the moment. It's a fascinating and deeply intimate exploration of human relationships and behaviours, lead with tangible chemistry by Sheen and Caplan, who each offer incredibly strong, honest performances in their own right. The social topics that the show has tackled within it's historical context, from sexism and racism to abuse and homophobia, has also provided some really interesting and often very poignant scenes. 

The show is also by many accounts a critical success; garnering positive reviews each season and a slew of Golden Globe and Emmy nominations - including multiple wins for Allison Janney's performance as Margaret Scully. The third episode of the second season, 'Fight', was also a gloriously strong and poignant episode, described by TV Club as a "master class in what the television medium can accomplish." 

Sky Atlantic is the home of so many international successes, but for some reason it has yet to house Masters of Sex into it's schedule, despite their contract with Showtime allowing the exclusive European screening of Showtime original shows like Ray Donovan, Billions and The Affair. There also seems to be no place for the show on Channel 4 or More 4, despite the fact that they're still airing Homeland - another Showtime original.

Even when the show transferred from Channel 4 to More 4, the Season 2 premiere attracted more than 200,000 viewers in the UK, so it certainly seems as though there's an audience for the show here that is being ignored. In the US, the third season took an average of 600,000 viewers per episode and was still renewed for a fourth season.

So, given its substantial award recognition, as well as it's distinguishable cast (including our very own Michael Sheen and a number of familiar guest stars including Allison Janney and Sarah Silverman) and fair international and domestic ratings, it seems strange, and somewhat perplexing, that we're not being given the opportunity to watch the latest seasons here. The third season isn't even officially available on DVD in the UK. Amazon has a slightly dubious region 2 DVD available for £27, but it isn't available to buy in trustworthy stores like HMV, where even the most niche serie are catered for. 

It's a real shame that UK audiences, who watched and enjoyed the first two seasons, are being left in the dark on the show's latest revelations. For now, we can only hope that it makes an appearance somewhere, sometime soon. 

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