Imagine a television show that was A League Of Their Own but with female wrestlers in the 1980s, a show so full of heart and soul and fun and good acting that you can’t pull yourself away from it. GLOW is exactly that—and so much more.
The new Netflix newbie is an eighties period piece about starving actors and weirdos in Los Angeles who stumble into the world of female wrestling. Based on the real wrestling show of the same name, it follows the repeatedly failing Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie) who is trying to catch a break in Hollywood only to end up so out of it that she has to fight to be included in a wrestling concept. The “Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling” brings together a ragtag group of women who encompass a beautiful cross section of body types, ethnicities, ages, and more. It has a diversity that rivals Orange Is The New Black (Likely since both are produced by Jenji Kohan.) but without any of the baggage of prison or politics: it exists in a 1980s vacuum to backhandedly discuss topical issues in a way that could only be pulled off with crimped hair and nipple sweating spandex.
It would be easy for GLOW to be a throwaway comedy about weird women but it is anything but that. Instead it has a heart and humor that is so touching, like a bite sized “San Junipero” without the devastating bittersweet twist ending. It plays with so many eighties types—the down-low rich preppy gay male, the constantly role playing weirdo sub-goth, the dirty old man who is a de facto dad type, the ditsy blonde constantly caught mid gum chew—who are thrown against each other so well, a pastiche that is both an homage to these bygone types and investigation beyond their surface stereotypes. The results are fucking funny considering how much material there is to work with (Eighties! Wrestling! Sex! Drugs! Fashion! Gender!).
But where GLOW truly succeeds is that it overcomes all the hurdles of stupid streaming television. First, episodes are approximately thirty minutes long. They breeze by! The fat of binge watching television, the huge Netflix problem of making everything twenty minutes longer than necessary, has been gracefully side-stepped. Moreover, the “Flashback context!!!!!” bits that bog down Orange Is The New Black, Transparent, and even The Handmaid’s Tale are entirely absent: the show remains in a perpetual presence in the past, reminding that shows can maintain a timeline while telling a very deep story.
Streaming shows have evolved into exhausting media items based on the mindless, lifeless mentality that you as a viewer have so little life that you will upload yourself to the ‘flix via binge watching. More instantaneous shows via Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. lack pacing, succinctness, and brevity that bloat calling card shows like House Of Cards, Jessica Jones, Sense8, The Man In The High Castle, Transparent, The Path, 11.22.63, and more. These shows are fucking draining, designed to take your time and convert you into a cog in the machine of their content cause. I don’t demand mindlessness in my media but shows like the aforementioned require too much from a viewer, becoming the sort of friend who you only casually like who doesn’t get the hint at the end of a dinner party that they should have left two hours ago. Yes, you might love or be that casual dinner party friend—but they are not for me.
GLOW does none of this. It breaks (Or demands?) the binge mentality by allowing you to dip in and out without sucking the life out of you. Commercial breaks are required. Shows like this (and, maybe, Santa Clarita Diet and Difficult People and Casual) offer hope and happiness while also allowing you to enjoy your weekend independent of a streaming service. It’s nice to see that the makers of television are maybe building a better relationship and respect for viewers.
Also: GLOW just does a great job with details and being cute in general. From the strange hollow sound of wrestling ropes vibrating to Rich Sommer‘s god damned adorable smile, you are given so much in such a small period of time. It’s a rewarding watch, one that pays off because it doesn’t overstay its welcome.
We need more shows like GLOW for obvious reasons but, perhaps, it is what makes this show special that should require its being so singular. Like A League Of Their Own, imitations will try and fail to capture the heart that you’re given here. You can’t force these things and they don’t just happen: they come from a care of storytelling and a source material that is cared for. Shows like this don’t come around too often—and they’re worth the time.