Officially, the new seasons of Ray Donovan and Masters of Sex do not start until July 12. But, Showtime gave everyone their version of a fireworks celebration this weekend with early, free access to the first episodes of Season 3 for both Ray Donovan and Masters of Sex ahead of their advertised midmonth arrival. Both well-reviewed and acclaimed shows are available on demand and on YouTube for anyone, regardless of whether they subscribe to the premium channel. They are also available for free on iTunes.
Clearly, Showtime is betting big that one episode of either or both series will make people want to see more. Both episodes deliver, too, showing elongated “previously on” segments to help people catch up, and introducing new characters and scenarios to propel them forward this summer.
Two-time Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Liev Schreiber stars as the titular character, Ray Donovan, who is basically a conflicted bad guy. Donovan is a professional fixer, who is often asked to make indiscretions and problems disappear for celebrities, athletes and businessmen. However, he cannot fix his own family, father, siblings, wife or children and their lives.
Season 3 begins a few months after last season with Ray feeling cut off from his family and coworkers, including former mentor Ezra (Elliot Gould). He will not forgive his wife, played by Paula Malcomson, for his affair with a cop, even though he regularly hooks up with other women. A wealthy businessman (Ian McShane) hires him to find his kidnapped son, thereby introducing several new characters, including one played by Katie Holmes. Meanwhile, Ray’s father (Jon Voight in the role that won him a Golden Globe) is also in a new residence and meeting a new cast of characters that are sure to lead him into his next scam. Other cast members include Eddie Marsan, Steven Bauer, Katherine Moennig, Kerris Dorsey and Devon Bagby.
Masters of Sex is a Showtime series about the real-life human sexuality research pioneers William Masters and Virginia Johnson (played by Lizzy Caplan and Emmy and BAFTA nominee Michael Sheen). Masters was a married gynecologist who initially hired divorcée, single mom Johnson as a research assistant. She later became his full partner professionally and personally. The first season took advantage of being on a premium channel with some graphic scenes of their early “sex research.” But later on, the series evolved into a deep look at the issues affecting society in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as changing attitudes toward sex, family issues, race and more.
Season 3 starts in 1965 after a considerable time jump, evidenced by the title characters’ much older children (who are fictitious even though the main characters are not), a reference to 12 years of research, and their ground-breaking book, Human Sexual Response, is completed and ready to proofread.
During the episode, the research duo is shown in a press conference introducing their sex study to the world. In between, there are flashbacks to the summer, when Masters’ family and Johnson’s go on vacation together to a cabin. The close quarters provides a setting to explore their conflicts as a working team, Masters’ failing marriage to the depressed Libby (Caitlin FitzGerald), and the persnickety Masters’ difficulty in relating to his wife, partner and children, as well as OCD attitude toward their manuscript. The show also stars or periodically guest stars Annaleigh Ashford, Josh Charles, Beau Bridges, Emmy winner Allison Janney, Tate Donovan and Sarah Silverman.
This weekend, in between the barbecue and the Fourth of July fireworks, take advantage of Showtime’s celebration and the early arrival of Ray Donovan and Masters of Sex. Just be aware that the episodes that air on Showtime on July 12, may be slightly different (reportedly some nudity and cussing – not all – was reportedly edited out for the freebie showings).
Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss
IMDB: Ray Donovan
IMDB: Masters of Sex
Episode 3.1 Ray Donovan
Episode 3.1 Masters of Sex
Photo of Liev Schrieber courtesy of Showtime