Television : Sex on the Box and in a Box

By Smith, Aidan | Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh, Scotland), October 13, 2013 | Go to article overview

Television : Sex on the Box and in a Box


Smith, Aidan, Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh, Scotland)


LAST week I watched a drama about a doctor who performs heroic surgery, whose closest colleague is a bit of a ninny, whose hospital is a randy place save for one token horn-rimmed frump, who lives in a dream home with a blonde wife but probably doesn't love her, who back at the randy hospital fancies the new recruit, a cool and alluring brunette unlikely to put up with the not-very-casual sexism of the day.That was Masters Of Sex and then I watched Breathless. Same deal. Doc, forceps, swooning staff, randiness, frumpiness, emotional aridity among the luxury furnishings, sexual frissons on the wards, leading to the thought: "When did women get so ballsy? Is there something in the air? Could it be some kind of crazy sexual revolution?" I can't think of an example of scheduling as clodhopping as this. Or hype so lame. Both shows have been billed as the new Mad Men; neither, on the evidence of the first episodes, comes close. Most of us will only have room in our lives for one such series, so which will it be? Masters Of Sex is American, and Breathless is British. The former begins in 1956, the latter in 1961, so they're almost equidistant from Mad Men's starting point of 1959. Masters Of Sex is at least its own thing, being the story of sexologist William Masters' pioneering survey which kind of started the crazy sexual revolution, which first the men of Mad Men and in later seasons the women would exploit. But Breathless is more of a direct steal, with gynaecologist Otto Powell a sexual conqueror like Don Draper and sporting the same haircut. It's as if the format was run off Joan Holloway's photocopier (you remember: the first- generation one installed in 1962, as big as a frigate, all hard, dull edges next to her curves). Oh, and Breathless has its own vampish redhead as well.Otto is played by Jack Davenport. Early on he said "Thank you, theatre", a line which could have come from Smash, his Broadway-set drama. Davenport is Smash's leading alpha male, a competition with just the one entrant, but here he gets to tell the soon-to-be-married redhead "You'll be wasted in the kitchen", leave his wife picking fag butts out of the shagpile after a party and keep a gun. The danger element in his perfect existence looks set to come from the illegal abortions he does for posh women ("I've been such a silly muffin," admits one) and from Iain Glen, who in the final scene was skulking in Otto's garden behind a Terry- Thomas moustache. …

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