Since Mad Men, the demand for provocative and intellectual historical dramas has been evident on practically every network or streaming service. Despite several notable attempts to capture the same lightning in a bottle, not many series have come close to doing so. When Masters of Sex premiered on Showtime back in 2013, though, boasting awards-worthy performances and a true-story premise, it seemed like the first series to come along in the post-Mad Men world that could reach similar heights.
Despite being welcomed with critical acclaim in its first two seasons, the series never managed to grab quite as much attention from the general public as its AMC predecessor. Following a heavily criticized season 3 and and a relatively quiet season 4, it looks like Masters of Sex has officially reached the end of its lifespan.
According to Deadline, Showtime has opted not to renew Masters of Sex for season 5. The series just recently wrapped its fourth season in mid-November, ending with Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) and William Masters (Michael Sheen) getting married.
As reported by THR, Showtime commented on the cancelation with the following:
“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 series was an awards darling in its first two seasons, earning Emmy and Golden Globe nominations primarily for the performances from stars Allison Janney (who won once for her work on the series), Beau Bridges, Michael Sheen, and Lizzy Caplan. But the series received less positive critical attention in its third season, when a time jump shifted several of the key character dynamics around.
The cancelation doesn’t come as much of a shock, especially since the series never managed to be the serious ratings performer that some of Showtime’s other titles have been. In its fourth season, the series averaged 800,000 viewers, less than half the 2 million average that the network’s hit series Ray Donovan has scored, which Showtime has already renewed for a fifth season. It’s the latest series to be canceled by the network, which has struggled to find another breakout hit as of late, but with other projects like Twin Peaks, Just Kids, I’m Dying Up Here, Guerrilla, and more, the tides may be about to change for Showtime.