The only potential downside is that it’s about pro-wrestling – the pop culture equivalent of that folder marked, “Tax stuff – seriously. Not porn, it’s tax stuff!” on your laptop. Yes, pro-wrestling can be hokey, offensive, stereotypical, reductive and flat-out silly. It’s that thing everyone pretends isn’t a long-standing part of the American cultural fabric and usually gets mentioned only in passing as nostalgic fun (“Oh, yeah, I used to watch it when Macho Man was around in the 80’s”).
Pro-wrestling is very much alive and is experiencing a bit of a renaissance on the independent/international scene (WWE still kinda sucks), but that’s not the point of the article. The point is – if you’re one of the twelve people left on Twitter who hasn’t watched GLOW because “wrestling is lame,” then you’re missing out. Even if you took the wrestling out of the equation, the story and characters are still immensely entertaining.
This could be a show about a theatre troupe, a fledgling rock band or a rag-tag group of athletes trying to get their team to the finals. While many viewers will absolutely drown themselves in the unrivaled, if campy, storytelling ability singular to pro-wrestling, the real magic of the show is the wit and brevity rare to most TV series.
Even on Netflix, there’s a barrage of shows that seem to drag in various spots. There’s either too much focus on melodrama or the plot just….meanders to apparently fill time. Whatever the case may be, GLOW is all killer, no filler. Well, mostly killer. There are a few spots in the season that linger a bit too much on the melodrama of a potential divorce, but nothing even close to egregious. If you’re binge-watching the show however, you might not even notice. Overall the pace of the show never dips. You will burn through this show over a weekend, no problem. At a crisp 30 minutes for each ep and the kind of story-pacing that has better cardio than the Ultimate Warrior this show will have you locked in from jump street.
GLOW follows a fictionalized account of a once-real ladies wrestling TV show from the 80’s. That’s just the backdrop for Allison Brie’s Ruth Wilder and her journey to find work as an actress in LA. In the first episode we see that she’s tired of playing generic roles like “the wife” or “the secretary” and wants meaty roles to sink her teeth into. Her only chance appears to be the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, directed by Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron).
It’s not just about wrestling though. It’s about living with yourself after making a horrible mistake, finding creative and personal fulfillment through the unconventional world of pro-wrestling and ultimately trying to find where you “belong” in this big, blue ball of chaos we call Earth.
There are also very 80’s outfits, hair and makeup. Remember those high-waisted spandex things from those old aerobics exercise videos (and the Jamie Lee Curits/John Travolta film Perfect)? GLOW’s got them (personal aside – that aesthetic checks a lot of boxes for me. Not a in pervy way. Well, not ENTIRELY in a pervy way).
And wrestling. Yes, there’s wrestling. Not the best wrestling ever, but definitely era-appropriate wrestling for the skill level of the women of GLOW. Actually, where this show eclipses most actual wrestling shows is the characters’ ability to cut a good promo and put together a ridiculous gimmick. Beyond the wrestling aspect, all the characters in this show are endearing and quirky in a non-abrasive way. They’re not dripping with Disney-style pluckiness nor are they dark, grim and completely un-relatable. The women of GLOW fall more in that “slightly more eccentric than normal, but still flawed and relatable” category – the perfect sweet spot of characterization.
The best character is Sheila the She-Wolf. If you’re familiar with the expression “living the gimmick” then you know what she’s all about. In the pilot when all of the women give their headshots to the director, she hands him a crumpled up photo of a wolf. It’d be easy to write her and a lot of the characters off as “needlessly silly” but as the season progresses every character’s eccentricities become a smaller part of who they are as people. You may not 100% relate to or understand them, but you see their humanity and that’s quite a feat for this kind of show.
Sheila isn’t an outlier either. GLOW suffers from the rare and delightful problem of having too many interesting characters and not enough time to feature them all. It’s a good trade-off for the most part; the pace of the show moves with the kind of refreshing brevity otherwise unattainable if they tried to cram everyone’s backstory into ten episodes. That also leaves a lot of available material for Season Two.
If there was one character that deserved more time in S1, it would be Cherry Bangs (Sydelle Noel) who really brought an especially grounded and relatable aspect to the show. She was the glue of normalcy that held the show together throughout the season and is honestly just a bad ass character that definitely could have spun-off into her own show!
It wouldn’t be a wrestling show without wrestlers and there are cameos from a handful of male wrestlers (some with WWE experience and some who are staples of the independent scene) but the most surprising pro-wrestling appearance was that of Kia Stevens. Stevens was known on the wrestling scene as Awesome Kong (working for pretty much every wrestling company around) but as Tamme’ Dawson (aka the Welfare Queen) she fit in perfectly with a cast of seasoned actors. But honestly, everyone was great in this show. It truly was an ensemble cast with no perceptible weak spots.
The aforementioned Sheila the She-Wolf was a personal favorite, but this show has such a variety of characters and any one of them could be a stand-out favorite. In may ways, this show feels like the spiritual successor to Whip It!, the Drew Barrymore directed roller derby film starring Ellen Page (which is also a personal favorite of mine) that flew under a lot of people’s radar for some reason despite being officially Hipster-Approved™.
So definitely check this one out, but chances are you already have.
Hit us up on Twitter @Official_FAN with your favorite Gorgeous Lady of Wrestling.