THE SERIES "Masters of Sex"

WHEN | WHERE Third-season premiere Sunday at 10 p.m. on Showtime

WHAT IT'S ABOUT It's 1965 -- or about half-dozen years after the end of the second season -- and William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) are about to present galleys of their book, "Human Sexual Response," to the press. Bill, as always, is distracted; Ginny's children, Henry (Noah Robbins) and Tessa (Isabelle Fuhrman) are now teens; her ex, George (Mather Zickel), is still lurking; and Libby Masters (Caitlin FitzGerald) is still hurting.

MY SAYThe third season begins with Ginny and Bill in the midst of an act -- you can guess which one -- performed with all the gusto of brushing their teeth. She's talking about the next day's press conference, while Bill -- ever the technocrat -- seeks only expediency and efficiency. It's all bloodless, sexless and amusing: The sexual revolution is underway but the leaders of the revolution . . . are bored.

It'd be ironic too, except that this series isn't about "sex," per se, but about "intimacy," and how the former is the gateway to something almost unimaginably deeper and more mysterious.

Describing their new book to the press (in next week's episode), Bill says that it "sometime shines the light on the infinite variations of a single act." In that one sharp phrase is the entire logline for the third season. By shifting forward to the mid-'60s, Ginny's children (both fictitious) are hormonally complicated teens. Therein lies one of those "infinite variations." Libby -- who is further estranged from Bill -- forges an intense emotional bond with Ginny is yet another variation. The culture at large is also questioning the forces -- or the libidos -- that Masters and Johnson together have unleashed. One more variation.

And within each of these variations are layered, intricate stories. "Masters of Sex" just gets better and better.

BOTTOM LINE Next week's episode is even superior to Sunday's -- which is terrific.


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