Behind the Unusual Opening Credits to Masters of Sex

TIME

The opening credits sequence for Showtime’s Masters of Sex, which returns Sunday for its second season, is one of the most divisive on television. A suggestive, tongue-in-cheek montage of some of the most enduring sex metaphors and symbols, the sequence has made numerousbest-oflists and earned a recent Emmy nomination for Outstanding Title Design—but it’s also attracted some hate from critics and viewers who don’t care for its wink-wink nudge-nudge innuendos.

When Masters of Sex creator Michelle Ashford and executive producer Sarah Timberman brought the project to art director Leanne Dare of Elastic (the studio that has also done credits for True Detective, Game of Thrones and The Americans), their instructions were simple: create a sequence that’s witty and intelligent, something befitting the show’s own smart exploration of sex and sexuality.

“You think of all the obvious things first—beautiful shots showing sex in really nice…

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