It’s a story almost too ridiculous to be true. The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Packed with all the 80’s nostalgia one can handle, Netflix’s GLOW is a revelation. The show, from the creators of Orange Is The New Black, gives compelling characters, relevant social commentary and some wonderful performances. GLOW is perhaps the comedy hit that Netflix has been looking for. Orange Is The New Black, a show I admittedly couldn’t get into, is seemingly less of a comedy than some awards bodies will tell you. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has been well received by Netflix patrons, however, that is a show I have not seen.
However, GLOW, while it does have elements of drama, it is continuously funny. The show features one of the better performances of Allison Brie’s career and a remarkable turn by Betty Gilpin. Marc Maron is also hysterically funny. Despite a few slower moments in the show, GLOW‘s relentless pace and constant comedic banter leads it to be one of the better seasons of a comedy in recent memory.
GLOW centers around failing actress Ruth (Brie) and her friend Debbie (Gilpin). Debbie, once a principle cast member of a day time soap opera, is a new mom and has since left the show. Meanwhile, Ruth is desperately trying to get any part in town, including the male leads. When Ruth stumbles across an audition for a wrestling show of all women, she doesn’t hesitate to give it her all.
At the forefront of the show is director Sam Sylvia (Maron) who’s fading fame has left his B-movies in the dust. Sylvia casts an eclectic group of women to be his wrestlers, and finds that they have no idea what they’re doing. Neither does he to some extent.
The most noticeable thing in GLOW, is that it is a story of existential crisis. The various characters in the show seem to constantly be wondering, how did I get here? The most fascinating of which is Sam’s. Did he think he was more famous than he was? Sam’s story is very much one of ego, and a well written one at that. Compare that to the likes of Ruth or Debbie, and theres a trio of terrific leads as the main focus of the show.
Debbie however, is a lot like Sam. The ego of being what is stated to be a side role in a lesser known soap opera, is something Debbie carries with her. On the other side of the coin, Ruth is naive, doesn’t know when to quit and is idealistically ambitious. Yet, the viewer is left to wonder, does she really think she’s cut out for the job? Ruth is talkative but at the same time reserved. She puts up a front that adds complexity to her character so we never really know whats going on underneath it all.
There is some very committed acting in the series with a few standouts. Each girls story is woven enough into the canvas of the show, all the while never distracting from its intended leads. Rather, it is enough to be able to care about the side characters to create that connection and helps strengthen their bond.
GLOW isn’t without flaws. Amidst all the glitzy production design and costumes, GLOW occasionally drifts into dark subject matter and snaps out of it like it never happened. Perhaps the limitations of 30 minute episodes and only ten in the season itself, has something to do with that. Moreover, the show is sometimes desperate to have an opinion on anything remotely feminine. And, at times, some of the eccentric personas the wrestlers take on become played out.
Though the show hasn’t been renewed for a second season, in some ways it doesn’t need to be. When you develop the plot and characters as well as creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch do, you can leave it right where it ends. To me, the story is complete. While I would watch a second season, GLOW works as a one-off. For, Flahive and Mensch GLOW was clearly a labor of love.
Best Episode: Episode 7, “Live Studio Audience”
Worst Episode: Episode 8 “Maybe It’s All the Disco”
Season Score: 8.5/10
Consensus: GLOW’s glamorous production design and nostalgic 80’s feel doesn’t distract from what is a laugh out loud funny season of TV comedy, chock full of wonderful and committed performances.