Need a random Netflix show to binge, even if it’s a topic you know nothing about and didn’t even think you would like?
My suggestion is “GLOW,” a Netflix original series that I didn’t think I would become as addicted to as I did. The abundance of unique characters for viewers to connect with were a game-changer along with the appealing story of people following their dreams, trying to make it in the entertainment industry and life in general. The weird and cringey humor also made me stick around and wish for more.
A comedy-drama, “GLOW” fictionalizes the creation of the 1980s syndicated women’s professional wrestling circuit, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, or GLOW. For anybody else like me who also did not exist in the 80s, apparently this was actually a thing.
Also, for being a show about female wrestlers, there’s not a ton of wrestling. Probably because they’re not real wrestlers since they’re more like an island of misfits learning how to fake wrestle without actually hurting each other. The characters are ridiculous, in both flawed and hilarious ways, as they try to make this television show about female wrestlers happen.
The show — which is split into 10, approximately 30-minute episodes — follows Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), a struggling actress and not entirely likeable character 100 percent of the time, as she auditions and fails and starves on a diet of cereal and has an affair with probably the worst person for her to have an affair with and then embarrasses herself for the wrestling show. Maybe that’s all acting is, being willing to embarrass yourself for attention.
Either way, she does it well. And pretty often.
The point being, Ruth is flawed, particularly in ways you would expect from a self-involved, starving actress. Her flaws and mistakes seem stereotypical for someone self-involved, but stereotypes and the idea of them are a running theme in the show. Those mistakes Ruth make also seem to come from a place of contradictory feelings of both hating herself and feeling entitled. Even though I didn’t like her at first for having sex with a married man and being desperate for any acting role she can get, though, I still end up rooting for her.
The show also follows Ruth’s frenemy Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin), who was once an actress on a soap opera but was written off the show when she got married and pregnant. Now, her marriage — and life — is in crisis, and the (fictional) director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) takes advantage of that, convincing her to be the star of his women’s wrestling show. The tension between Ruth and Debbie is also a treat.
Part of the humor of the show relies on cringey creative differences between Sam Sylvia and the (fictional) producer Bash (Chris Lowell) along with the overall cringey creative decisions the end up making. They both have horrible ideas, including Sam Sylvia’s crazy, sexist endeavors, including an idea for a character who is both a virgin and an all-knowing sex queen (it’s a dumb paradox).
They eventually land on the actors playing cartoonish stereotypes, including an Arab terrorist (played by an Indian woman), a party girl, a fake nerd girl, Sheila the She-Wolf (who actually believes she’s a wolf in a woman’s body), a welfare queen, a drug dealer, an Asian stereotype character called Fortune Cookie, an all-American blonde called Liberty Belle, and more.
They use those stereotypes as gimmicks, hamming it up in the ring as they pair off with each other, like with the party girl and the nerd girl. “Ow! Stop hitting me with knowledge!”
The director defends these stereotyped characters they create as commentary on existing stereotypes, but the actors still point out how offensive these stereotypes can be. The actors show how they are conflicted with their roles and how they create compromises with themselves in how they portray their characters.
Even though the show they’re creating is based on stereotypes, “GLOW” does well with having a diverse cast with well-rounded characters. The show is of the same quality and has a lot of the same traits as another Netflix original show, “Orange is the New Black.” “GLOW” does well what “Orange is the New Black” also does well in that they are both able to bring together different characters who may not have otherwise met. While there’s conflict between them, the characters form a kind of camaraderie, including on Sheila’s forced birthday celebration, the ridiculous of what they’re creating, the syncing of their periods, being forced to live together in a motel, and more.
Overall, “GLOW” is a fun show that I gave a chance on a whim and will now wait months for Netflix to give me more. Families should beware because while part of the show is the fun of watching a bunch of inexperienced people create a wrestling show, there are also the occasional exposed breasts, a scene of sex (which I probably would have been okay if the show just hinted at rather than showed me), so many references to drugs (diverging far from the “drugs are bad” motif I learned from D.A.R.E. as a kid), and other adult themes. I rate this show an A.
Sam Wildow is a reporter and missed her true calling as a viking warrior on a television show for fictional wrestlers