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TV Review: GLOW Season 1 (2017) — An Easily Binge-able Show That Piledrives All Expectations

Luke Miksa loves wrestling. Did you know? He also loves great television, so let’s find out if GLOW is a match made in heaven.

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GLOW is a largely fictional series based upon the short lived wrestling promotion from the 80’s: the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie, Community), a struggling actress based in Los Angeles, attends a casting call for a new television program, but Ruth quickly realises that this is no normal audition. The creative director (Marc Maron) informs everyone that they are auditioning for a new all-female wrestling program, siphoning off the surging mainstream popularity of professional wrestling in the 1980’s. They will ultimately become the stars of GLOW: the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.

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Probably as painful as it looks.

GLOW is a new Netflix exclusive series from some of the minds behind the hugely successful Orange is the New Black. It’s a comedy-drama ensemble set amongst the world of professional wrestling, and if anyone knows me at all knows that alone made this show an absolute must-see based on premise alone. The good news is that GLOW is sensational! It is oftentimes hilarious, heartfelt, sad, confronting, and triumphant all in a single episode. It’s an easy watch, with each episode cracking through its relatively short run-time leaving you wanting more. The cast characters really shine, and you will end up having your own favourites after these initial ten episodes are through.

I was quite impressed with how GLOW portrays women. Coming from a largely female creative team I guess that’s to be expected, but considering this is a show about female wrestlers rolling around in revealing leotards, it is never sexualised. There is quite a bit of nudity, to be warned, but it is all very casual. It’s quite refreshing to watch a program where sex and nudity isn’t glamourised, but instead just an everyday aspect of life. That’s as real as it gets!

The realistic depiction of nudity works with the overall realistic aesthetic in general. For example: Alison Brie is a beautiful woman, no doubt, but the show never makes her out to be overly glamorous, if anything they may have downplayed it. Her character of Ruth is overbearing, wears the same outfits and minimal-to-no makeup, and is overall a flawed human. She’s a struggling actress that makes poor life choices which adversely affects those around her. Yet she is still so relatable despite all that, because the show does such a tremendous job of making us like all of the characters, including Ruth.

Perhaps due to the realistic, relatable portrayals of so many of these characters, it’s actually kind of ironic that it’s set in the world of professional wrestling where everything is heightened and exaggerated. It’s an interesting dynamic and potentially the main factor in what makes it so watchable.

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Marc Maron in the role of his career.

But this show is an ensemble, and a large one at that. The cast is filled out by outstanding performances from Marc Maron, Betty Gilpin, Sydelle Noel, Britney Young, Britt Baron, and Kate Nash among many others. Each with a sizeable chunk of screen-time and each carving out their own niche of the show, much like the original GLOW it was based on. And let’s not forget the physical sacrifices these women put themselves through for these roles: They actually all went through basic wrestling training which deserves a huge amount of respect, as anyone who has been in that situation will tell you just how much of a toll it takes on your body.

Clearly this show impressed me, but the most impressive thing was the portrayal of the professional wrestling business itself. More often than not, wrestling is portrayed on film as a joke. Excluding Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, wrestling is treated as a laughingstock; a hackneyed curio enjoyed by children and rednecks. I can’t tell you how many times I — as an open wrestling fan — have been met with the condescending classic, “You know it’s fake, right?” In contrast, GLOW treats wrestling just as it should: a live show featuring performers of supreme charisma and athleticism, and ungodly mental and physical toughness. GLOW respects wrestling and therefore the millions of wrestling fans.

Despite being too young to remember much of it firsthand, the 80’s setting appears to be very authentic. From the hairstyles to the outfits, the visual style maintains that realistic approach seen with the characterisations. Even the soundtrack has a few 80’s gems (including an outstanding montage set to Billy Joel’s ‘Movin’ Out’)

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The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling!

One of the huge issues with many programs designed for on-demand video is that the run-time of each episode is often bloated due to the lack of constraints in regard to the program scheduling found on network and cable stations. This apparent freedom of run-time has had an adverse effect on many programs — some of the Netflix Marvel shows spring to mind — with the result being unfocused, meandering, and long-winded episodes. The good news is that each episode of GLOW clocks in at around a breezy 30-odd minutes; the episodes pop along at a rapid rate and you’ll be on to the next one before you know it. It makes GLOW a very binge-able show: I finished the whole first run in only two nights.

Netflix has been cancelling shows of late, so I do hope that we get more of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, because I simply can’t get enough. These characters absolutely have a lot more ground to cover.

Have you watched GLOW yet? What’s your favourite wrestling move of all time? Tell me in the comments below, or otherwise drop a line on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Llama Score: 9GLOW came as a total surprise. It’s not often that wrestling is depicted with any sort of respect on film, so not only is it pleasing to see an accurate representation of something I love, but the show itself is funny, smart, heartfelt, and real. GLOW is all about the characters, and by the end of this first season, even the fringe characters are fully developed. More please!

Award: Golden Llama

Highlights Banner

  • A great ensemble
  • Wrestler cameos
  • Inspired music cues
  • The wrestling industry is treated with respect

Lowlights Banner

  • Nil

Further Viewing Banner

  • Orange Is The New Black (2013- )
  • GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (2012)
  • GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (1986-1989)
Created By: Liz Flahive, Carly Mensch Produced by: Liz Flahive, Carly Mensch, Jenji Kohan, Tara Herrmann Starring: Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Sydelle Noel, Britney Young, Marc Maron, Jackie Tohn, Kate Nash, Ellen Wong Australian Release: Currently streaming on Netflix

 

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