Season 1 available now on Netflix
It’s all big hair, big knickers and big moves in Netflix’s new eighties-set comedy GLOW, a fictionalised retelling of a real life group known as the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling. Community’s Alison Brie is Ruth Wilder, an irritatingly dedicated actress who can’t get cast in Hollywood. She turns up at the auditions for GLOW alongside a host of other misfit, un-castable women of the time. They’re an eclectic bunch; from big to black, to Indian to butch, Asian to British. Ruth is determined to succeed, but her personal life seeps into the ring and causes much of the series’ early conflict.
Initially we follow Ruth alone, and although she is decidedly irksome, actress Alison Brie gives Ruth an unexpected charm. Ten other women make up the GLOW team, including Mr Robot’s Sunita Mani and some great newcomers including Britney Young and Sydelle Noel. The characters are complicated and each one is given the opportunity to delve into their personal lives alongside their wrestling ones. The women hit the right ‘girl power’ notes to make a progressive show without taking anything away from the feminist message.
The drama is ignited by Ruth’s best friend Debbie, brilliantly played by Nurse Jackie’s Betty Gilpin, who soon finds out Ruth slept with her husband, and the two fight it out in the ring. Both are consequently cast by cocaine-addicted, sex-obsessed, alcoholic director Sam Sylvia – a sci-fi slasher movie maker played perfectly by Marc Maron – in his new professional wrestling promotion group ‘Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling’ . It may sound like there won’t be one likeable character in the whole show, but the cast of GLOW is far from it. Maron does such a good job at the no-frills bad-mouth Sylvia that you find yourself unexpectedly drawn to him, especially in his relationship with wrestler Rhonda – played by British singer-turned-actress Kate Nash. Between the throwaway comments about “cunt-punches”, Maron actually manages some tender moments with each of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.
Refusing to shy away from being bold, GLOW is a step ahead of the average Netflix show. That is to say, this bunch of misfits are genuinely misfits, the big girls are actually big (not just a little curvy), and the problems they face are genuine. The fast-paced, saucy plot is influenced by each female wrestler, who in turn have pasts, problems and now a new workout regime that takeover their lives. It’s even more fun to watch GLOW knowing that it is based on a true story. Initially, I would have been apprehensive at the implausibility of the show, yet instead I find myself gripped. The sheer 1980s-ness of it alone makes GLOW a joy to watch. Bright leotards, disco music and recreational cocaine use saturate the screen, making Netflix’s newest foray a nostalgic recipe for success.