I love the fall for many reasons—the return of football and hockey, the abundance of pumpkin-flavored treats, and new seasons of my favorite TV shows. Fall is when a sense of routine returns to my life, and the creature of habit in me loves that.
But there’s something to be said for summer and its lazy hours in air-conditioned houses, filled with time to explore the media we simply don’t have time to consume during the rest of the year. Summer is the perfect time to fall in love with a new book (or series of books) or binge-watch that TV show you keep saying you’ll “get around to eventually.”
In this strange space between summer and fall, I find myself hopelessly in love with both a television series and a book series, and I have to talk about them or else I might explode from too many unexpressed fangirl feelings.
I had a list of television shows I wanted to start this summer, but only one ended up making the cut: Masters of Sex. Thanks to Heather’s effusive praise of this show and its incredible leading lady (the fabulous Lizzy Caplan) over the past year, I bought the first season on DVD last week to tide me over until the rest of my dramas return at the end of this month. I’m not so sure I’ll be able to make it last until the end of the month, as I’ve made it to the halfway point of the first season after only two nights spent watching it. I can’t stop, and I don’t want to.
Each episode of Masters of Sex feels like a movie; it’s cinematic in its style, its tone, and its performances. Michael Sheen deserves more critical acclaim than he’s received for his incredibly nuanced work bringing flashes of humanity to a character who could have come across as one-dimensionally cold and distant. The moments when he shows you the cracks of vulnerability behind Bill Masters’s proud façade astound me. I just recently watched the episode entitled “Catherine,” and his breakdown at the end of it was brilliant—but what moved me the most was the moment just prior to it, as he tried to tell Virginia why a recent loss was his fault while clearly fighting back his tears. Sheen is a genius at restraint in this role.
And while Sheen is so good at being restrained, Caplan is a force of nature as his partner. I’m going to try not to write an essay in this post about why I love Virginia Johnson as a character, but forgive me if it delves into that territory. It’s just that she’s so warm and bright; she makes you understand why Bill Masters needed Virginia Johnson before the pilot is even over. And, even more compellingly, she makes you wish you had a friend like Johnson or could be more like Johnson yourself. There’s much more to be said about the fearless way she shows the vulnerabilities of being a working single mother that still plague many women today, but I promised I wouldn’t write an essay in this post (maybe in another one someday). All I’ll say is that Caplan makes the struggles of this woman resonate in way that doesn’t make you think about how far we’ve come; she and the writers instead force you to examine how little has actually changed in the battle women wage to have both career success and a family.
Masters of Sex has me hooked, and I haven’t even really seen any of Allison Janney’s Emmy-winning work on it yet. I can only image the emotional devastation I’ve felt over the last two episodes I’ve watched is only going to get worse. And I can’t wait.
While Masters of Sex is my late-summer TV addiction, I’ve also been swept up in a book series that has been perfect poolside reading: the Selection series by Kiera Cass. When I picked up the first book in this series, I had no intention of going beyond just that first book. I thought it would be a fun bit of escapist YA literature to end the summer with, but all of a sudden I’m halfway through the second of the three books in the series and losing sleep because I’m thinking too much about these characters.
In case anyone is interested, The Selection tells the story of America Singer, a girl who’s chosen to participate in a Bachelor-style competition to become the bride of Prince Maxon, who is part of the family who rules over what was once the United States (wars and economic collapse destroyed the country). There are rebel attacks, gorgeous gowns, and, of course, a bit of a love triangle. Think of it as The Hunger Games with more kissing and a lot less killing (at least so far).
I love the way this series honors the relationships women have with each other. The Selection itself could have pitted all of these girls against each other, but Cass makes sure to point out that the stereotypes of women being catty and jealous of other women are very rarely true. Instead, America actually finds a best friend among the other Selected girls. And America’s relationship with her younger sister and her maids are also treated with importance. Romance plays a big role in this series, but it’s America’s bonds with the women around her that I’m drawn to the most.
However, to say the romance in this series isn’t a major factor in my enjoyment of it would be a lie. But what I like most about the romance is that I do genuinely understand why both men in the triangle hold sway over America’s emotions—one represents the idea that your first love can last forever and the other represents the ability to love again in a way you never dreamed you would. As of right now in my reading, both men respect America’s agency and autonomy in a way I find very refreshing. She’s not a prize to be won for either of them, and that’s especially true for Maxon, whose desire to make her feel comfortable and not pressured in every aspect of her journey through the Selection has been the most pleasant surprise of the series so far.
If you need me before all of my shows come back this month, you can probably find me watching Masters of Sex or reading one of the Selection novels. Both are serving as a wonderful warm-up to the emotions and analysis coming my way over the next few weeks.
Did you fall in love with any new books, movies, or TV shows this summer? I want to hear all about them!
So so SO happy you love The Selection as much as I have!!! And this is why I appreciate your analytic brain, because I never noticed the importance of the female friendships (oh just WAIT until you get to The One) and how they shape America’s experience. I love how it showed another side to a Bachelor-style story line. Where its more than just a catty competition, its about life, and connections, and relationships with others around you. So basically, life!
But this summer I discovered Arrow! I have to say, I was pretty nervous about the Gotham series coming out this fall, but seeing Ollie and later Barry (aka, THE FLASH!!!) and how they have gone about modernizing and updating the story has been quite reassuring. The effects are spot on, the story is believable-well, as believable as any superhero story can be-and with few possible exceptions the casting is spot on.
Plus, come on, Captain Jackie. Yum yum yummmmmm. 😉
I am so intensely invested in The Selection, it’s crazy (and wonderful in only the way obsessively thinking about a book series can be). I just got to the part in The Elite where things happen with Marlee (trying not spoil anyone), and I NEED to keep reading to see how America handles all of this. Why are lunch breaks so short? 😉
I love your thoughts about Arrow because I’m so happy that it’s living up to what you as a comic fan would want it to be. And who doesn’t love an excuse to stare at John Barrowman? 😉
I already have your book Selection on my goodreads list, but I need to look into getting Masters of Sex because I’ve heard so many good things about it.
Summer is my season to watch shows in reruns that I haven’t been able to watch because something better was on. I caught up on some episodes of Brooklyn Nine-nine that I had missed. Enough to realize I really like the show, but not quite enough to feel like I’ve seen most of the first season. Hubby fell back in love with Jack Bauer and his ruthlessness on 24.
We watched some American Ninja Warrior, which made me feel very weak and wimpy. We enjoyed Hollywood Game Night for a while too – it was not so good once they started showing reruns though. Last Comic Standing was excellent and we are still enjoying Masterchef. I hope they bring back the kids Masterchef, which was even more fun without all the interpersonal drama and with Gordon Ramsey in encouraging mentor/dad role.
On Wednesdays I was sad that Suburgatory was finished, but content to watch endless reruns of The Middle – my love for that show grows and grows. I’m fed up/over Modern Family, but was really excited to finally see episodes of The Goldbergs and discover how awesome that show is! I fell in love with everything about it. Hubby and I can reminisce about the awful fashion and he can catch 80s movie references that I’m 2 years too young for (we were both kids in the 80s but he was just old enough to see PG13 stuff I wasn’t allowed to see or interested in). The best thing was when I saw the daughter wearing awful acid wash jeans on the show and then the next day saw someone in real life wearing them – for fashion!! ugh!
I can’t recommend Masters of Sex highly enough. I just finished an episode a few minutes ago that was probably in the Top Five TV episodes I’ve watched in the past year.
I loved reading your list of summer shows and reruns. I haven’t watched The Middle or The Goldbergs very often, but what I’ve seen I really enjoyed. I’ll definitely have to add those to my long list of shows to watch more regularly!
I just checked the fall tv schedule, quite belatedly, and found that Masterchef Junior is coming back on fox this fall! yay! and it’s on Friday nights so there’s nothing else to compete with it 🙂
There’s just so much good TV and so little time to watch it all…
So glad you decided to watch Masters of Sex – it is probably by far the best show on television. It only gets better as season one progresses and so far season two is absolutely stunning. If you think the work on season one was great, just wait. The development of the relationship not only between Masters and Johnson, but also Johnson and Lillian (I can’t remember when she shows up in the show) are fascinating. I completely agree with what you had to say about Sheen’s work and how Johnson as a woman is incredible to watch. I won’t start writing on that as I could keep going.
The show I started this summer that is a close second to the above is The Knick, which is also about medicine in the past. I won’t bore you with a synopsis of the show but it basically follows the staff at Knickerbocker Hospital in NYC in 1900 when things were becoming cutting edge. As a physician, I’m of course interested in the medicine of the past but this show is also a very interesting character study on how these doctors struggled with caring for patients and their inability to perform certain operations. I could go on but will spare you. It has definitely made my summer less painful as I wait for normal fall TV.
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on both Masters of Sex and The Knick! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who could just keep writing about Masters of Sex. And I’m absolutely loving this season, so your positive thoughts on Season Two have me even more excited to keep watching! I’ve just “met” Lillian (she confronted Bill about Virginia’s role in the last episode I watched), and I’m already looking forward to ever interaction between her and Virginia. They’re such different women in terms of their personalities but they actually have quite a lot in common in terms of their desire to help other women and their passion for this branch of science. I’m very excited to watch that relationship continue to develop.
I haven’t heard much about The Knick beyond its basic premise, so your enthusiasm for it (combined with my interest in medical history) definitely has me intrigued.
I entered the summer believing I was going to be swept away by True Detective only to be enchanted by Chuck and enthralled by Masters of Sex. I had resisted HBO/SHO for quite sometime and would pick it up for Game of Thrones and disband it 12 weeks later. But I had decided to keep it for a little longer to watch True Detective. My love of Allison Janney combined with Heather’s deep rooted love for Masters of Sex sent it to the top of my curious list, only to have it become this magical piece of television for the summer months. About 3 episodes in I realized this was the show that I always wanted Mad Men to be and never manifested. Oddly enough it reminds me of why I love Game of Thrones. The broad cross section of women who have strengths, success and ambition in a world not designed for them to have any. Obviously Lizzy Caplan’s portrayal of Virginia Johnson cuts across the face of so many challenges women faced and continue to face when it comes to a less traditional vantage point on marriage, sex and love. But beyond that watching Master’s wife Libby search for her identity through the roller coaster of fertility. Dr. DePaul who has sacrificed her femininity in order live in a man’s world in a quest to be taken seriously to better women’s health. Betty’s transparent and powerful ownership of her body, her decisions, her consequences has made her a personal favorite. And then of course there is Margaret, in the hands of Allison Janney’s haunting portrayal we are given the reflection of a mirror every woman has looked into at one point in their lives. It’s a vulnerability unlike any other TV right now in my opinion.
And then there is Chuck. How did I miss Chuck the first time around? It became a delightful escape from a particularly busy summer in my day job. Zachary Levi is simply enchanting. I loved the adventure, the parallels to classic television and the beautiful unfolding of the love story. It was the perfect show at the perfect time for me. I am still midway through season 3 because I ebb and flow around my TV genres, but I have started to slow burn it to enjoy it more.
I am so happy to be going along on this Masters of Sex journey with you (and with Heather to guide us, of course). You’re comparison to the women on Game of Thrones is spot-on. It’s about showing so many ways that women can be strong, never taking the easy way out with tropes, and embracing the fact that no two women are alike and there’s no “right” way to be a woman. I also echo your love for Betty. She went from making me laugh to making me cry, and I’ve missed not having her in the last few episodes I’ve watched. And I can’t say enough about Allison Janney. The horribly realistic shame, loneliness, and vulnerability she’s projected in just “Brave New World” alone broke my heart. I knew she was going to be good; I had no idea she was going to be this good.
And on a lighter note, Chuck is just a bright, happy gift from the TV gods, isn’t it? It’s such a “happy place” show for me, and you haven’t even gotten to my favorite season yet (Season Four, which has one of my favorite finales of all time). Zachary Levi is just a walking ray of sunshine, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in saying Chuck Bartowski is very close to the top of my list of fictional dream men. 😉
I had some time away from work the last 8 weeks and used that time to re-watch all six seasons of Castle, and all five seasons of Fringe. At the beginning of August the local hifi store was having a sale, buy 2 get 1 free, so I bought Season 1 of Bones and Suits and the combined seasons 1 and 2 of Orphan Black. Bones I loved. The relationship between Booth and Brennan had me intrigued but I’m not a shipper, yet. The relationship between Brennan and Angela was the stronger in this season. My favourite scene is the one where Goodman says to Angela “You are the best of us, Miss Montenegro. You discern humanity in the wreck of a ruined human body. You give victims back their faces, their identities. You remind us all of why we’re here in the first place – because we treasure human life”. Makes me tear up when ever I watch that scene. I’ve only watched 5 episodes of Suits and it’s not grabbing me as something I absolutely must watch. I found myself comparing it to Boston Legal, it’s relegated to my watch whenever pile.
The biggest find this off season though was Orphan Black. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but the first 3 minutes of the opening act had me hooked. Before I realised I’d watched the first 3 episodes and had to change the DVD for disk 2. Orphan Black blew me away. It’s raw, gritty and dramatic. The characters are complex and morally ambiguous. You don’t really know what angle they are playing or where their true loyalties lie or if everything is really a scam. The relationships feel real. There is not one perfect relationship in the show and yet the relationships they do have, are not defined by their sexuality. The Cosima/Delphine relationship is powerful, but twisted in so many ways. Is Delphine really in love with Cosima or is this so she can get close and monitor Cosima? Whatever the reasons their relationship treated with great respect and love from the writers. It made me think back to the Willow/Tara relationship in Buffy. I’m amazed at the depth of the female characters in this show, they are all powerful well thought out, grounded and have such depth. The male characters apart from Felix are there as plot points or eye candy. I do hope that in Season 3 the power of the female characters is not diluted with the introduction of male clones. Talking about clones how can one actor play 9 different characters and give each one a different feeling? I love all the clones. Well maybe not Rachel, but I’m waiting for the scene where Helena confronts Rachel with anticipation. Felix’s relationship with Alison provided some amazing dialogue, and I believe Felix has some of the best one liners in the show. His one about “Does your daddy have a drinks trolly?” just had me in stitches. The opening scene in the final episode of Season 2 was confronting and difficult to watch. To watch Sarah been interrogated, stripped of her dignity and subjected to such humiliation made my blood boil. How could they justify this form of treatment of someone who had surrendered and was submissive? Did I mention this show is raw, gritty and dramatic? Now if only April 2015 would hurry up…
I love this comment so much, Mark. I’ve never watched Bones (there’s so many seasons that it feels a bit daunting to catch up now), but I do watch Suits and can understand it not jumping out at you as must-see TV so far. I feel like it gains its footing towards the end of the first season.
I could read your thoughts on Orphan Black all day. It is such a complex show with such fascinating characters, and I can never get enough of reading people’s takes on each character and plot thread. I understand your worry about the introduction of the male clones taking some of the power away from the female clones, but everything I’ve heard and read from the creators and cast leads me to believe that they understand the importance of the story they’re telling through these women—so I have a feeling they’ll be just as prominent and powerful as ever next season.
Don’t even get me started on Sarah’s interrogation in the S2 finale, because I’ll just start crying again and talking about how incredible it was until I reach my word limit in these comment boxes…
Summer is always that time of the year when I think that being free from school will allow me to catch up on the shows that I missed during the winter and to read as much as possible, every year I end up being wrong, because there is always something that comes up and keeps me busy. Also, living in a town near the sea means that summer nights are almost spend outside, even just for an ice cream and a quick walk along the promenade. Like I said in some other post, I catched up with The Originals this summer. I didn’t want to give it a chance when it aired and I didn’t, I was so disappointed with TVD that I couldn’t care less about it even if reviews were positives. Around July a friend of mine convinced me to give it a chance because she loved it so much, I trust her opinion and so I yielded. I am obsessed now. The storylines are intriguing, the characters are all well developped and I found myself watching three episodes everynight, even if I have a rule to not watch more that two episodes per day when I’m catching up on a tv show.
Regarding books I read The Bronze Horseman trilogy by Paullina Simons and I loved it. So much it hurts. the first book is set in Russia during the WW2 and it’s epic! It’s about a love story but in many ways is also a story about surviving and hymn to life, even when we find ourselves living the worst that life can offer us.
First of all, that sounds like such a nice place to live! (You had me at ice cream.) I understand thinking you’re going to get around to so much TV-watching and reading during the summer, only to find out you have less time than you think. I had so many shows that I was planning to catch up on this summer, but Masters of Sex was really the only new one I started.
I’m fascinated by World War II novels, so The Bronze Horseman trilogy sounds like something I’d really enjoy. I’ll need to check that one out ASAP!
I’ll have to add The Selection to my reading list because I always trust your recommendations and I’ll need something shorter to break up a couple of long books I want to read soon.
I have 2 things I fell in love with this summer and one I’m well on my way to falling in love with.
First, Grey’s Anatomy. I started watching because Nikki loved it then I stayed for Cristina. I enjoy the show a lot but I really love her as a character and she’s brought me so much happiness.
Second, Eli Stone. This show is everything I could possibly want to see. It makes me laugh, it makes me tear up, there are song and dance numbers that are just thoroughly delightful, Victor Garber sings multiple times, and I love the majority of the cast from something else so this was one of those shows that I just instantly fell for. I’m torn between drawing out the second and final season so it’ll last longer and just binging it because I love it so much.
Finally, I’m not quite in love with Outlander yet but I like it a lot and am particularly excited about one of the events happening in a couple episodes. The lead character is amazing and a wonderfully realized female character who is extremely compelling to watch, two relationships that I’m really enjoying the development of (small as one may be) and a friendship starting to take root that has the potential to be really wonderful. Add in the gorgeous scenery and theme song and I am just a small step away from being crazy about it. I want to start the book series soon so that will probably solidify my love and get me through the long hiatus.
I think you’d really enjoy The Selection—especially as a break from longer books. The books in the series are extremely quick reads, and they’re completely addicting. I spent an hour yesterday totally lost in the second book in the series, and it was the perfect way to unwind after a long day at work.
I love how much you love Cristina. She’s the best character on a show with so many of them, and part of me wishes I would have stuck with the show just to follow her arc through the years.
And now it looks like I have to start Eli Stone—because I always trust your recommendations and because Victor Garber + singing = instant joy. I was also very curious about Outlander, and now I’m even more curious because if you like something, chances are I’m going to like it too. 🙂
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