TV Review: “GLOW” the Perfect Summer Binge
From 1986-1990, there was a real Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling television show. Shot in Vegas, the original GLOW was known for it’s all-female cast of outlandish characters, extreme dramatics, and so. Much. Spandex.
Inspired by the 2012 documentary GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, along with a slew of YouTube videos, Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch have created a hilarious, fictionalized take on the real Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling troupe.
In the pilot episode, which is one of the best episodes of the series, we are introduced to the lead character, Ruth (Alison Brie). An adorable struggling actress who has a face that no one can decide is pretty or not. Hitting rock bottom in her career and her life, she hears about an audition for “unconventional women.”
A theatre nerd at heart, Ruth gets cut from the GLOW cast after going all Shakespearean (and frankly, for just being annoying) during her audition. But still, she is persistent, and manages to win back her spot on the lineup. However, her frenemy, soap star Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin) has also been cast as the star of the show. Bummer.
Gilpin shines as a new mother struggling to deal with her dissolving marriage, facing her enemy every day, and learning how to wrestle. Both Gilpin and Brie are able to endear us to their characters through the honesty in their acting. They’re exceptional.
Comedian Marc Maron also excels, playing jaded director Sam Sylvia perfectly. He has some of the funniest, snarkiest lines in the show: In Sam’s pitch to the network, he describes GLOW as, “Porn you can watch with your kids…Finally!”
The drug using B-movie director is charged with pulling together this rag tag group of women who know nothing about wrestling. But Mel Rose (Jackie Tohn) says it best, “Who doesn’t trust a man with a mustache fulla coke?”
The supporting characters are all good, you just don’t see much of them. Cherry Bang (Sydelle Noel) is a stunt woman, so she takes the lead in training the women in most of the wrestling moves. Britney Young was another stand out, playing a wrestler (“Machu Picchu”) who suffers from extreme stage fright.
After stumbling through some elaborate backstories, Sam and producer Bash (Chris Lowell) decide to simplify the show and base the women’s characters on stereotypes: the Asian woman as “Fortune Cookie,” the black woman as “Welfare Queen,” etc… Although the personas are like, totally cringe-worthy, the women find a kind of empowerment through them as well.
As a feminist comedy, GLOW’s overall theme is one of girl power, but it’s more what I call “light feminism.” It’s not overdone, or shoved down your throat. It’s more of an evolution.
Many of the main characters are fighting some form of male oppression: husbands or fathers who want women to stay at home and raise children, or actresses who struggle to find strong, leading female roles.
Throughout the series, the characters gain strength and power through the sport of wrestling and the support of this oddball sisterhood.
Although GLOW is all about the process of putting together a show, the path of Ruth finding her character is long, and it is winding. Episodes and episodes are spent on her floundering characterization, while that time could have been better spent beefing up the minor characters.
But, the show is consistently funny. And as a tribute to the 80s, you’ll find a lot of hairspray and neon, but not a whole lotta bras.
The 10 half-hour long episodes are easy to plow through. And with a totally rad soundtrack, this series is easily digestible fun.