Tuesday, June 27, 2017

GLOW - Review

In 1985, a casting call went out in Los Angeles looking for out of work actresses and models.  Roughly a dozen women from that casting call were selected to begin work on a new wrestling show that featured only female performers.  As with anything, the show had its critics.  It was campy, at times cheesy, and at least initially, the quality of wrestling left a lot to be desired as most of the performers had little to no experience in the ring.  Despite all of that, from 1986-1990, Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW) became a nationally televised cultural phenomenon.

  Fast forward to 2017… Netflix has put out a new comedy loosely based on the now defunct wrestling promotion.  The aptly named GLOW hit the popular streaming service on Friday and is quickly gaining some serious word-of-mouth credibility.  The ten, 30-minute episode series chronicles the first few months of GLOW’s existence starting with the casting call and taking the audience all the way through the end of the wrestling show’s very first televised event. 

Here’s the thing though, this is not a show about wrestling.  This is the story of the personal lives of the people involved while using the wrestling show as a backdrop.  In the opening minutes of the show (directly after the totally tubular opening credit sequence set to Patty Smyth’s “Warrior”) we are introduced to Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), an out of work actress that has dreams bigger than the opportunities presented to her.  After yet another failed line reading, Ruth receives a tip about an “unorthodox” casting call that had recently came out.  As she prepares to begin her journey to women’s wrestling we also meet Debbie Eagan (Betty Gulpin), Ruth’s best friend and former soap opera star who retired to start a family.  Once Ruth has signed on with GLOW we also meet Bash (Chris Lowell), the remarkably Rob Lowe-esque financier and Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), the director of the wrestling show.  Sam is a cocaine inhaling, womanizing, slime ball, yet Maron manages to make Sam almost relatable and loveable (the running joke about Back to the Future beating his new script about time travel, “Mothers and Lovers”, to the theaters is particularly amusing). Despite all of the strong performances, Maron is hands down the true standout of GLOW.  Throughout the 10 episodes, we follow these characters as well as the rest of the ladies who have joined up with the promotion on their personal journeys, covering the spectrum of emotions and personal experiences from friendship, to distrust, to camaraderie, to betrayal, and ultimately to acceptance.

                As with anything that involves wrestling, there are a few easter eggs hidden in GLOW for fans to find.  Obviously, one could point to the multiple cameos by wrestlers throughout the series (for fun, be sure to point out any cameos you spotted in the comments below!) but my favorite tidbit is the name of the gym.  The ladies are training in a run-down dump of a gym named “Chavo’s”.  Chavo Guerrero Jr was the trainer hired by Netflix to help the actors with their wrestling.  Any fan of wrestling is extremely familiar with the Guerrero name, true wrestling royalty.  The really fun part about all of this?  The man hired as the trainer in the real-life GLOW was Chavo Jr’s uncle, Mando Guerrero.  A huge “well done” to Netflix for giving a nod to one of the truly great wrestling families.

                With a total runtime of roughly 5 hours, GLOW is worth your time. First and foremost, it has all of the necessary ingredients for an 80’s show: hairspray, french-cut leotards (how did I forget about those!?), a designer drug dispensing robot (yes, really) and of course a totally bad-ass soundtrack.  Add to that the wrestling, comedy, acting, and well written characters, GLOW will make any viewer feel personally invested in these people’s lives.  Spend some time with the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling and if you like it, spread the word so we can all see where our new friends from GLOW go from here!

--Frankie G  (@F3theMissle on Twitter)

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