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Showtime’s ‘Masters of Sex,’ based on Newsday writer Thomas Maier’s book, ends after 4 seasons

Actors Michael Sheen, who plays Dr. William Masters,

Actors Michael Sheen, who plays Dr. William Masters, and Lizzy Caplan, who stars as Virginia Johnson, in Showtime's "Masters of Sex." Credit: AP / Craig Blankenhorn

Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” will end at four seasons, the network confirmed Wednesday.

In a statement -- appearing first in Deadline, which broke the news -- Showtime said: “Masters of Sex was a beautifully written and acted exploration of America’s changing sexual mores. We are incredibly proud to have shared the story of Masters and Johnson for four critically-acclaimed seasons. The series will remain available across our platforms where new viewers can discover it for years to come.” The fourth ended Nov. 10.

Indeed, this was critically acclaimed, especially the first two seasons, and gave Showtime a real bid for Emmy glory, too. There were a total of seven nods, while Allison Janney won for best supporting actress in 2015. (The Golden Globes were a little less enamored -- only one nod, for Michael Sheen’s performance as Bill Masters.)

“Masters” also had peerless source material. It was based on the exhaustive biography by Thomas Maier, which included interviews of Virginia Johnson (played by Lizzy Caplan) before her death in 2013 at 88. Maier is also a veteran investigative reporter for Newsday.

While filmed on the Sony lot in Culver City, California, there were also scenes shot here. The plan was for “Masters” -- about the pioneering St. Louis-based sex researchers -- to tape on Long Island, but Sheen was L.A.-based and so that was that. The pilot in 2012 was shot at the Sands Point Preserve and at a house in Huntington. Executive producer and co-showrunner Sarah Timberman -- her co-showrunner, Michelle Ashford, who developed and also wrote much of this -- told Newsday, “For the opening party scene and a later ballroom scene we were at Hempstead House,” the Sands Point mansion once owned by the industrialist Guggenheim family. “It was swanky and stunning and felt perfectly emblematic of the kind of place where all of St. Louis society would show up,” Timberman said. (Another Newsday and L.I. connection: Maier said the mansion, Falaise, at Sands Point, was “owned by Harry F. Guggenheim and Alicia Patterson, who created Newsday. Here I was on the estate of Newsday’s old publisher, and it was Newsday where the story started.” )

And yes, “Masters” was a beauty — particularly well-crafted and written, our review had this to say about an early second season episode:

“This tour de force also gets straight to the heart of an entire series. ‘Masters’ isn’t really about sex at all, but about intimacy. The irony, or paradox, is that the two “masters” themselves haven’t yet figured that out. At least the pleasure, or one of many here, is witnessing their anguished efforts at trying.”

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