(Spoilers for GLOW to follow)
Watching people beat the shit out of each other doesn’t interest me at all. No, no. Wait. Watching people pretend to beat the shit out of each other doesn’t interest me at all. There you go. Soap operas, too. There’s another thing that concerns me about as much as the cost of a box of cookies in Camden, New Jersey. That is – not at all. So when you combine those two things (people pretending to beat the shit out of each other and soap operas) to make wrestling, chances are I’m not going to like it. And I don’t. I really, really, really don’t care for wrestling.
So it’s weird that I, a person who cares so little about wrestling, would care to watch a television show about it, let alone an entire series. What’s even weirder is that I, a person who cares so little about wrestling, would actually enjoy it. Quite a bit, actually. Why? Yes, I was excited to see my teenage celebrity crush half naked. Sue me. But those not (100%) why I liked the show.
First, let’s look at the storytelling. It’s not often that a television show has a main character that’s so… difficult. Not difficult personality wise, but so difficult for the audience to define. You start out meeting Ruth (Alison Brie), and feel bad for her because she can’t find a gig. She’s just a woman that wants a acting job that’s not a secretary. I can dig that.
Then, the story moves on to her getting laid. That’s cool. I can dig that, too. But, as the first episode progresses, we quickly find out that the person she’s laying is, in fact, her best friend’s husband. Oh snap. Not cool, right? I mean, there are a lot of things we can disagree on – the validity of war, the definition of truth, what Big Red actually tastes like – but sleeping with your best friend’s husband is something that’s pretty much a red light in most cultures of the world.
Needless to say, this sets her up as a pretty terrible person in the audience’s mind. Within five minutes of meeting our main character, she’s done something really, really shitty. And we’re constantly reminded of this fact throughout the whole show.
Some of the other characters, including Ruth’s best friend Debbie (Betty Gilpin), are also really difficult to categorize. Throughout the entire show, you’re rooting for both of them at the same time. You can feel for Ruth, who constantly tries to rekindle her relationship with her ex-best friend and who obviously feels terrible about what she did, but you can also feel for Debbie who wouldn’t pee on Ruth if she was on fire.
Melrose (Jackie Tohn), too, is a pretty terrible person. After hearing a bout a colleague’s miscarriage three years ago, she proceeds to fake a miscarriage in the ring a few hours later with a bottle of ketchup just to mess with her. Not cool.
But that’s what makes this show feel more real. Some people are just ass holes. Other people are genuinely nice people. Like Carmen (Britney Wade), for instance. While providing an element of comic relief to GLOW, she also provides a different kind of realism. She’s the nice side of the cast, the person who just wants to do something (wrestle), but can’t because she doesn’t want to anger her family. Carmen and other characters give us the opposite side of the human equation in GLOW. It’s really a fantastic mix that a lot of shows try to create, but can’t pull off.
GLOW definitely pulls it off.
And then there’s the show’s technical side. The camera work, the world building, the writing, and the soundtrack were all fantastic. It’s funny that so many shows have been going back to the 1980s recently. Stranger Things, for example. I’m terrified to see what TV shows are like in 30 years when people are nostalgic for the 2010s… **shivers**
But I digress. This show screams the ’80s. The clothes, definitely, but the entire atmosphere. Sam Sylva (Marc Maron) smoking at his desk, the old (but new then) cars, the flashy signs outside of buildings (like the Rusty Spur Motel). Everything was perfect. Not to mention the soundtrack. Each song complimented the scene it accompanied perfectly, and definitely added to the overall nostalgic feeling. And of course, they had to throw in the classic ’80s montage. The scene where Ruth and Debbie work to perfect their wrestling moves was probably the most ’80s montage since Rocky. Bravo, I say. Bravo.
But GLOW wasn’t without its faults. Some of the writing felt forced, and some of the dialogue between characters didn’t feel very natural. Like most of the scenes between Debbie and her husband Mark (Rick Sommer). It felt like the actors didn’t have very good chemistry, like they were having to try to act with each other. Maybe it’s just because I’m not the biggest Rick Sommer fan in the world, but that’s another story for another day.
Some of the story, too, felt like it was put in there to add an extra 10 minutes. Like the whole subplot with Justine (Britt Baron) and Sam. It didn’t go anywhere. It didn’t resolve. Even when the climax hit, it provided nothing to the overall story. Sure it was funny that he tried to make out with his kid when he didn’t know it was his kid, but that’s all the entire subplot was good for, a cheap laugh.
But still, GLOW did one thing better than many TV shows out there – it focused on women. I know this is a real story, so a lot of this might have actually happened, but it took on real issues that women faced in the 1980s (and still face today). A lot of shows try to do this, but few succeed in a way GLOW does. Like Ruth when she finds out she’s pregnant. She has to decide between a child and her career. But it’s more complicated than that. The child was conceived with Debbie’s, her best friend’s, husband. Does she completely ruin the relationship she’s been working so hard to restore? Does she completely give up on the opportunity to have a lead role in this wrestling show that may or may not go somewhere? She has to make a choice, a tough one. But she makes it and we see her get through it and succeed.
GLOW tackles a lot of other social issues, too. How men treat women, the objectification of women, how women are treated in Hollywood… the list could go on and on. It’s a great big social commentary wrapped up in a show about wrestling. And it’s amazing.
After finishing the last episode, I was left wanting more. I don’t know how they’re going to pull it off without making just a plain old wrestling show, but I can’t wait to see what the creators of GLOW do in the future. And there will be a future, because it’s Netflix. If there’s one media company that can totally ruin a show by adding a second season where a second season was completely unnecessary, it’s Netflix.
Reed’s Review Corner:
9.3 cheesy Russian accents out of 10.
Tackled tough social issues – and did it well.
Great storytelling and writing.
Some acting fell flat.