Summertime is a time for a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. And one of those breaks is from the break-neck pace of television that happens during the fall, winter and spring. During those seasons, it feels like you just can’t keep up with the television that’s available and if you do, you have no other life. I can honestly say that the last time I kept up with a lot of shows, I was not dating anyone, so it’s been a few years. So the summer can be a good time to catch up on shows now that things like DVR, On-Demand and the various streaming services are a thing. But networks have always used the summer to air different programming. It used to be silly summer television – Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Dancing with the Stars, Big Brother. Lots of “fun” reality television. Occasionally there would be a sitcom that wasn’t good enough for the regular schedule. But now with so much competition, all the networks are getting sneakier about spacing their new shows out, and many of the streaming services since they release their shows all at once don’t really have a regular season.
So I knew that GLOW was going to be a thing about a month or so before it was released when Netflix released the trailer. And then the show came out at the end of June and things were busy for a little bit. But I loved Alison Brie from her days back on Community and on Mad Men, and a female-centric show is always intriguing. Plus – it was getting lots of good reviews. So when I finally had time over the 4th of July weekend to start watching, I was excited to dig in. And then I was sucked in immediately and finished it all over the course of a few days when I had a few hours to spare.
The premise is this: our main character is Ruth Wilder, a struggling actress in LA in the early-mid 80s, who goes on a mysterious casting call that asks for “unusual” women. It turns out that we are in the golden age of televised wrestling, and someone has decided to profit off of the national interest with a league/television show of women wrestlers – the “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling”. This was, incredibly, a real thing that happened, which makes watching the show even more fascinating. Obviously the drama has been turned up a notch for narrative television, but otherwise the whole thing – offensive stereotypes of women as wrestling characters, living together in a hotel while rehearsing/filming – all real.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of faces I recognized, even if they weren’t very familiar. Alison Brie, obviously, but one of her Mad Men co-stars (Rich Sommer) appears in the first episode as a guy she has been intermittently seeing (the full revelation on that one is truly shocking). Podcaster/comedian Marc Maron as the GLOW’s director. Chris Lowell of Veronica Mars/Private Practice as GLOW’s producer. Sunita Mani (one of Mr Robot’s hackers) and Ellen Wong (from Scott Pilgrim vs the World and The Carrie Diaries) as fellow lady-wrestlers. And holy crap – looking at the credits I realize that the British redhead is singer-songwriter Kate Nash. Basically, lots of awesome people, and if that many cool people are involved – it’s probably worth your time.
While Alison Brie and co-star Betty Gilpin (who is from Nurse Betty, which I never watched) are terrific, I feel like the two standouts from the rest of the cast are Britney Young and Sydelle Noel who play Carmen and Cherry respectively. Britney’s Carmen grew up in a wrestling family, so she has a little more experience than the rest of the girls, but isn’t as confident in herself because of stage-fright and being sheltered by her family. Cherry is a working actress who has been around the block, and is using GLOW as her stepping stone to bigger things, at the same time making sure she’s fairly compensated for the additional work she does of training the girls, and making sure that her wrestling character is not just a stereotype for a certain type of black woman.
It’s a feel-good show (eventually?) that’s fun to watch. There’s lots of lady-bonding, and I found myself enjoying the wrestling bits a lot. It was neat to see the “behind the scenes” of how that’s all done – it’s more highly-choreographed dance than sport, though it’s obvious that it takes a lot of strength and skill to wrestle and make it look natural. Still not sure I’d want to watch real wrestling either on TV or live, but I appreciate it more? And to top it all off, the soundtrack is full of first class 80s gems that will make you want to get up and dance (or at least that’s how I felt). It’s a mostly-half-hour show, so it’s easy enough to gobble up in a few sittings. Definitely worth my time AND yours.
Details: GLOW, streaming on Netflix.