You know that Netflix show that's set in the '80s, has an ensemble cast and is currently on its third season? No, not the one with the quirky kids who have Winona Ryder on the verge of mental breakdown every other episode, the other one. You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?
I’m talking about "GLOW."
OK to be fair, I’d never even heard of the show either until I mistakenly stumbled across it in 2017. Its 30-second teaser clip on Netflix boasted an all-female cast, flashy costumes and a strong stench of hairspray that practically radiated from my TV. With all of those factors, it didn’t take much more to pique my interest, so I decided to give "GLOW" a shot. But like most Netflix ventures, what began as curiously watching the pilot episode turned into an entire season binge full of laughter and dare I say, tears?
Set in Los Angeles during the '80s, "GLOW" is loosely based on the "Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling," a real television show that ran from 1986-1989. Like the WWE, "G.L.O.W." featured a wide variety of wrestlers and their outlandish alter egos. Every week, the ladies went head-to-head in a 30-minute program that was edited with campy skits in between the fights. Some ladies on the "G.L.O.W." roster included Hollywood, The Royal Hawaiian and Big Bad Mama.
The Netflix show, on the other hand, is a scripted comedy that centers around an aspiring actress named Ruth (Alison Brie), as she struggles to navigate a male-dominated industry that wants to put her in a box. When you first meet her, she’s wearing those bulky shoulder pads and is reading for the male part at an audition, much to the annoyance of her casting director. While she obviously doesn't have much luck with that role, the casting director suggests something else. Like it did to me, "GLOW" magically falls into Ruth's lap and she decides to audition for the show.
Helmed by their sleazy director Sam (Marc Maron) and funded by an eccentric trust-fund kid named Bash (Chris Lowell), "GLOW" is the titular television show within the television show. The premise of "GLOW" is essentially the same as the show its based on. However, even from the beginning, it seems that the show is destined to fail as many of the actresses have never acted before, wrestled before or all of the above. Additionally, some seem to have a hard time wrestling with the implications of their alter egos.
Some include Beirut the Mad Bomber, The Welfare Queen and Ruth's Zoya the Destroya. If these names sound stereotypical and offensive, it's because they're supposed to be. Sam purposely gives the women problematic alter egos to generate views for the show. In today's culture this will raise some eyebrows, but I can promise you that the show treats it with respect, as the second season finds the women taking back the power from these stereotypes on their own terms.
The best ensemble stories are ones in which the supporting cast aren’t props for the main players, and "GLOW" is no exception. It features a diverse cast of women that differ in race, size and background. Each episode I thought I had my new favorite character until I finished the season and realized I loved each of them just the same. With a 35 minute run time, "GLOW" is a masterful character study of the women, as each of them deal with the drama of their personal lives and the looming threat of their beloved show's cancelling in their own separate ways. Despite some of the downfalls of the show, the women stick together through thick and thin.
Although "GLOW" is just as glamorous as it is tacky, the show also manages to tackle serious topics such as sexism, sexual harassment in the workforce and even women's reproductive rights.
More than anything though, "GLOW" is silly, fun and at times poignant. My older cousin used to watch wrestling every Friday night, and I would always turn my nose up when he asked if I wanted to join. Little did I know that I was missing out on so much fun, crazy mayhem. However, by interweaving actual drama and character development, "GLOW" has given me the best of both worlds.
The first season has a slow start, I will admit, but hang in there because once the show gets going, it gets going. Like an ugly duckling, "GLOW" rose from the ashes and slowly blossomed into a beautiful swan. While the aesthetics of the show are what attracted me, the strong characters and fresh writing are what made me stay.
I know I'm talking to a wall when I ask this, but please don't binge it in one night like I did. Like a fancy bottle of wine, "GLOW" deserves the be savored one sip at a time.
Season three of "GLOW" premieres Aug. 9 on Netflix.