In an era of prestige television, it’s rare that a show gets to be as guiltlessly entertaining as Netflix’s GLOW.
Set in the psychedelic 1980s, GLOW follows a group of “unconventional” women (not thin, white, or even blonde) in the process of filming a wrestling movie, a first for all of them and a seemingly impossible ask.
GLOW starts slowly with Ruth (Alison Brie), a down-on-her-luck actress who keeps getting the same bit parts and yearns to be taken seriously. The La La Land similarities end there, as Ruth gets sent by her agent to a casting call for “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.”
“My character has a long road to finding her wrestling character,” Brie told Mashable. Over the course of the season, Ruth tries embracing the role, trying her hand at a dystopic villain, a Jewish immigrant, and a Soviet loyalist.
“This show is not about struggling actresses; it’s about a group of women learning to do a new, rad thing, and empowering themselves.”
Ruth isn’t the most charismatic entry point for the show, and the first episode is a little slow as a result (the idea of Brie as an “unconventional woman” is particularly laughable, until you see the potential for humor in how grating Ruth is to others). What keeps you hooked in the pilot is her relationship with Debbie (Betty Gilpin), a close friend and former actress.
“Our characters have a rift in the first episode that bleeds through the whole season,” Gilpin told Mashable. “It’s a big rift, but through wrestling they get to stay connected in sort of a cavewoman-soul way.”
“For wrestling, there’s a fearlessness that you really need, and I felt like it was a really empowering experience,” Brie said. “The whole time we were shooting the show, I just have never been so confident as a person.”
With those leads established, the cast is rounded out by 14 women, including Sydelle Noel, Ellen Wong, Sunita Mani, Britt Baron, Britney Young, and Kia Stevens an actual wrestler. The story branches out from Ruth and Debbie; Young plays the daughter of a famous wrestler who doesn’t want her in the ring; Noel faces a power struggle with the director (her former lover), Sam (Marc Maron).
Maron told Mashable he was happy to play the “representational male asshole” on this show. Sam is particularly acidic to Ruth; they simply don’t gel, and acknowledging this early on clears the way for a begrudging professional relationship a tacit agreement to help each other if it furthers the project.
Once Ruth commits to G.L.O.W., naturally the project is jeopardized, not least by a lack of funding (Chris Lowell plays an adorably hapless producer who has a drug robot, but no production money). But the women of the project remain more committed than ever in the face of adversity. As Brie puts it, the show is “about a group of women learning to do a new, really rad thing, and empowering themselves to figure it out on their own”.
“It’s about women making their way in this world that they know very little about and that’s why it’s an exciting show,” she added.
“It was something really stayed with me in my daily life too,” Brie said of the confidence boost that wrestling on GLOW gave her. “I’d just walk around really walk tall while we were shooting the show, like I had a cool secret. But now I want people to know about it.”
GLOW is now streaming on Netflix.
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