Netflix has debuted its latest original series, GLOW, a comedy about the birth of female wrestling. GLOW follows the formation of the group that shares the series’ name, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Though GLOW is a real organization, the Netflix series is a fictionalized take on real events that is full of original characters and situations. GLOW also happens to be one of the most original and inventive series on TV right now.
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It Is ’80s But Not Too ’80s
GLOW takes place in the mid-’80s and it doesn’t take long to figure out from the hair and the clothes that the series is not in present-day. Yet unlike other ’80s period pieces GLOW never gets too cute or clever with its time period. GLOW takes place in the ’80s because the real GLOW was formed in the ’80s. The time period informs certain characters’ actions and belief systems but not in an over-the-top manner. No one is a die-hard Reagan supporter or can’t stop talking about the new Star Wars. The ’80s is really just a (wonderful) backdrop for the series.
GLOW is not buried in references. The series doesn’t confuse nostalgia and pop culture references for jokes like so many comedies that are set in specific decades. There are references to ’80s culture, especially the wrestling culture of the time, but it is not out place. It is all a part of the plot.
Marc Maron Plays the Perfect Scumbag
Marc Maron is far from unknown but the comedian has a truly underrated acting career. GLOW uses Maron fantastically and it is the best vehicle for him since his own series Maron on IFC. Typically Maron is the only man in a room full of women and he is often insulting or cursing at them. Yet somehow Maron’s character, director Sam, is oddly charming.
Sam is a complete scumbag but he is self-aware enough to know he is an utter jerk. Sam is unapologetically terrible and that somehow makes him one of the most refreshing and endearing characters on the show. GLOW really is a series where all the cast are trying to figure themselves out and what they want in life. Sam knows exactly who he is, a terrible and petty person, and he is fine with it.
In lesser hands Sam could be an irritating or off-putting character. Sam certainly isn’t unique being a middle-aged grumpy man. Maron so perfectly embodies a curmudgeon, though, that he ends up feeling brand-new. The main cast of women are fantastic but Maron still manages to steal several scenes.
It’s Incredibly Addictive
All of Netflix’s original series try to create a binge-worthy formula for all their episodes. Yet many Netflix shows really fail to have their episodes dovetail into each other. Often Netflix originals start off their seasons incredibly strong but hit a huge lull about halfway through, a lull that makes it more a chore than a pleasure to finish them. GLOW doesn’t get anywhere near that pitfall.
The episodes, since the series is a comedy, last roughly 30 minutes each and never overstay their welcome. They are just short enough to not feel guilty about watching one, two or 10 in one setting. While each installment does tell a complete story, another thing most Netflix shows can’t manage to do, they each end on an exciting hook. The average GLOW episode doesn’t end on a cliffhanger necessarily but there is usually something in the final moments that compels you to keep watching.
There’s a Diverse and Unique Cast of Characters
Thankfully GLOW is not the only series in recent memory that has decided to embrace diversity in its cast. TV has seen a fantastic variety of main casts in recent years that buck the standard white male formula. GLOW still manages to stand out for the way that it is not only made primarily of female characters but how those female characters interact and play off each other.
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Another Netflix original, Orange is the New Black, has an incredibly diverse cast of women but because of the story and plot, the cast is often divided along racial lines. In GLOW all of the ladies are misfits and outcasts of some sort. This allows the characters to unite in a really heartwarming way, regardless of backgrounds or skin color.
There is a sense of positivity on GLOW that is extremely rare on TV lately. GLOW occasionally deals with some heavy subjects like miscarriages or infidelity but it never feels oppressive. For the most part the series is a reason to see women of every size, shape and color getting along and bonding with each other.
Allison Brie is Fantastic
Allison Brie never really went away but ever since Community she hasn’t really had a great TV show to show off her talents. Brie might be a voice in Netflix’s fantastic animated comedy BoJack Horseman but the role doesn’t show off all her best strengths. GLOW is arguably the best role of Brie’s career, as she plays main character Ruth. This is no small feat as Brie has already had some tremendous characters to portray.
Ruth has the boundless optimism that Allison Brie does so well but there is a deeper and more tragic undercurrent to her character. Ruth is someone who is desperately messed up but is also desperately trying to fix herself and her life. Ruth is the perfect lead for GLOW as she is the perfect mix of tragedy and comedy, with the emphasis on comedy. Ruth is first and foremost an optimistic and funny character but there are also some surprisingly deep and dark moments to her story.
GLOW is a must-watch for Allison Brie fans as it really is a TV viewer’s only chance to watch her in something new. Yet Ruth is such a great character with a such a perfect performance backing her up that she needs to be experienced by everyone.
So what do you think? Have you watched GLOW? What did you make of it? Will you check it out now? Are you planning on binging it all or taking your time with it?
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(Image courtesy of Netflix)
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Derek is a Philadelphia based writer and unabashed TV and comic book junkie. The time he doesn’t spend over analyzing all things nerdy he is working on his resume to be the liaison to the Justice League.