Earlier this summer, Netflix released ten episodes of a little show called GLOW. It’s about women’s professional wrestling, a topic that would (and should) have any sane person a little skeptical. But I’m here to convince you to put your skepticism aside, ladies and gentleman, because GLOW is one of the best new shows I’ve seen since I started writing this column. Here are seven reasons why you should drop everything and start watching ASAP.
- Original Premise – I can’t think of another show about wrestling, period, much less a show about women’s wrestling. (I can’t really think of any movies, either.) Don’t we have enough programs about cops, lawyers, hospitals, and vampires?! GLOW is set in the 1980s and follows a group of women hired to create a promotional TV show about the women’s wrestling circuit: The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. If this doesn’t immediately whip you into a frenzied fit of curiosity, at least give the creators credit for originality. Which leads me to reason No. 2…
- Created by Women – Though these numbers are slowly increasing, still less than 18 percent of television shows are directed by women. (The numbers for movies are even more bleak—in 2016, less than 7 percent of the top 250 grossing films were made by women). If you don’t care about this for ethical reasons, you should at least care for selfish ones. Why miss out on half of the potential talent pool?! It’s like willingly chopping off an arm just because you think one will suffice. The entertainment industry is first and foremost a business, and the only way we can convince the powers holding the purse strings to continue funding female-created projects are by watching the ones that already exist. GLOW was created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, who are also the women behind the mega-hit Orange is the New Black. Some other shows that wouldn’t exist if we didn’t give women a chance? 30 Rock, Parks and Rec, GIRLS, UnReal, The Path, New Girl, Gilmore Girls, Jessica Jones, Jane the Virgin, Broad City, and Happy Valley, just to name a few of MY favorites.
- Pitch Perfect Tone – Similarly to last year’s Stranger Things, GLOW achieves the difficult feat of striking just the right tone. Tone is one of those tricky, difficult-to-articulate elements that renders a lot of potentially great art merely mediocre. Think of tone as the general attitude of a piece, the mood or feeling the creators want us to get when we experience it. GLOW is one of those rare shows that’s both comedic and heartfelt. It’s sidesplittingly funny, but also has scenes of such nuance and emotion that you might find yourself flicking away a tear or two. A lot of what I end up watching is chosen by what I’m in the mood for—I’m not always up for the bleakness of a True Detective or the slapstick of Broad City. Most times I want something that will challenge me but not leave me utterly depressed (TV is for entertainment, after all), and this is exactly what GLOW.
- Costumes – The 80s are a highly divisive time period for fashion. Either you love them or you hate them. I’ve always been in the latter camp, but that’s largely because a lot of the fashion from this decade depicted on screen has been reduced to a caricature (or based solely on Madonna). GLOW not only gets the subtlety of daily fashion down, but also has a lot of fun showing the different iterations of the women’s wrestling costumes. The success of their show depends largely on the success of their wrestling personas, and their costumes are a huge part of this character development. It’s a delight to watch them slowly construct wrestling identities, ranging from a Soviet spy to a wolf to a duo of elderly women. For me, there was also an element of nostalgia—many of the women’s clothes looked just like outfits I’ve seen in photographs of my mother when she was pregnant with me in 1987.
- Accurate Depiction of Friendship – We’ve seen romantic relationships depicted every which way on TV shows As a result, friendships often get pushed to the side, and used merely as a utility; “the friend” character exists solely as a sounding board for the lead to discuss her romantic pursuits. But GLOW is all about platonic relationships, both those between women, and between women and men. In fact, if there’s any “will they or won’t they” in GLOW, it’s between the two female leads: Ruth and Debbie. Ruth is a broke and aspiring actress who barely gets cast on the show; Betty is a semi-famous soap opera star brought in for audience appeal. The two are best friends, that is, until Ruth sleeps with Debbie’s husband. The creators’ handling of this relationship is perhaps the greatest feat of the show; they avoid cliches and finger-pointing and instead examine the complications of hating your best friend even while missing her. They also avoid using either of the male leads as romantic interests for any of the women. Sam (played by Marc Maron), the divorced, burned out director of the show, finds a unique artistic confidante in Ruth, and Bash (Chris Lowell), the rich party-boy producer, unexpectedly bonds with Carmen, herself the daughter of a famous wrestler who understands what it’s like to shoulder the intense pressure of living up to your parents’ expectations.
- Performances – It’s insane that I’ve gotten to the bottom of my list without mentioning the incredible cast. GLOW is an ensemble piece through and through, and thus wouldn’t succeed if there were any weak links. (There aren’t). Alison Brie has a career-making performance as Ruth, who is naive, melodramatic, and frustratingly likable. Have you ever met someone who messes up big-time but expects to remain a darling in the eyes of everyone? That’s Ruth. It’s not that she doesn’t realize she screwed up, it’s that she has trouble realizing that an “oopsie” for her is a life-changing devastation for her best friend. Betty Gilpin, as Debbie, plays her character with a ferocious mix of Miss American charm, the frustration of a housewife, the fury of a woman scorned, and the ego of a diva. Watching her in action had me wondering “WHO IS THIS ACTRESS?” and “WHY ISN’T SHE FAMOUS YET?!” And Marc Maron, known to most as a stand-up comedian, takes a character that could’ve been a misogynist asshole and plays him so vulnerably that we love him in spite of his (many) shortcomings. And those are just the leads! I’m praying for a Season 2, not just because I want more of all of these actors, but because I want them together.
- Accessibility – Last but not least, you should watch GLOW because it’s available—right now—all ten episodes—on Netflix. If you don’t have Netflix, I guarantee 90 percent of the people in your life do; ask for a password and get on it. The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling are not only gorgeous, but honest, hilarious, and wholly original.
By Rachel Woldum