GLOW: ’80s Neon Pink Is the New Black
We've bathed in the GLOW of Netflix's neon wrestling comedy. Here's what we think.
Confession: much like the struggling actresses forced to make a career pivot in GLOW, I have no prior knowledge of American wrasslin' beyond “it exists”. My comfort zone is not the squared circle. I'm a sport who's open-minded about all Netflix Original series, but I can't pull any punches on this: I don't understand the appeal of a sport that is a literal series of pulled punches. Regardless, I threw a lazy leg over these ropes, entered the ring, and promptly got floored.
Though I'm only two “toe-dip” episodes in, the titular Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling have managed to take my low expectations and turn them upside-down in a fancy suplex. The world of amateur sports entertainment is very much a compelling, emotional minefield. GLOW has locked me up, and, who knows? That might even transition into an inescapable, full-season choke-hold.
I should have known I was in the presence of greatness, of course, because GLOW is set in the hedonistic Eighties – a time period which I feel can basically do no wrong in terms of hairstyles and soundtracks. Also, any series with an all-female cast that's executive produced by Jenji Kohan and Tara Herrmann (Orange Is The New Black) should put the writing on the wall in big neon letters: hilarious, politically-incorrect banter ahead.
Indeed, GLOW is so similar to the aforementioned TV series, I found myself playing Spot The Formula Bingo. A misfit cast of racially-diverse women from all walks of life, forced into extremely close proximity? Check: though instead of a women's prison, GLOW centres on twelve desperate Hollywood wannabes entering into a women's wrestling boot camp. Like Orange, is the main protagonist a prissy, fish-out-of-water pariah? Check again: Alison Brie leads the cast as Ruth Wilder, the drama nerd whose acting “processes” and overwrought deliveries irritate everybody, including me. And she of course quickly finds herself in a bestie-turned-nemesis situation – which is highly reminiscent of Piper Chapman vs. Alex Vause. This invariably becomes the main hook – two old friends are put in a mock fisticuffs situation, and one of them actually wants to kill the other.
Instead of being put out, that fire regularly has petrol chucked on it by the B-movie director of GLOW, Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron). He's a loveable sleaze who, while being an expert at strangling funds out of the suits, is just as clueless as the girls when it comes to the world of faux-fisticuffs (though he does have a black-belt in sarcasm). What follows is a ground floor learning experience of the sport which, admittedly, was a pretty interesting stuff for an outsider like myself.
And, much like every schooling experience I've ever had in real-life, Wrasslin' 101 is a course made infinitely more entertaining due to a group of disruptive classmates. The cast ensemble is a lot smaller than what we got in Litchfield Penitentiary, but it's pretty hard to pick a favourite, to be honest. If you twisted my arm behind my back, possibly in a hammerlock move, I guess my top three would be Melanie "Melrose" Rosen, the smart-ass party girl; the ditzy UK expat, Rhonda "Britannica" Richardson, and the enigmatic and supremely anti-social Sheila "the She Wolf”. She's in costume 24/7, and is basically a 1980s proto-Goth.
Clearly, the groundwork is in place for some very interesting character revelations down the road. That said, I have some concerns rooted in the fact that some of the GLOW ladies don't have interesting personas, a lack of a hook. I'm getting the feeling that a quarter of them are going to remain filler characters, too, due to the shorter episode runtime in this 10 ep series. My hope is for deeper dives that reveal the motivations of each fighter, but the basic mathematics of it all say that's going to have to wait until Season 2.
Be that as it may, I'm super keen to jump back into more GLOW. I'm all in, baby. Like a crazy, full-bodied belly flop off the turnbuckle.