Jul 31, 2017

[TV] GLOW: Season 1 Review

Back in the day I totally got into the crazy world of the (then) World Wide Wrestling Federation. I was watching around the time of Wrestlemania X and the whole drama related to whether or not the Undertaker was really dead and all that good stuff. In hindsight I accept that professional wrestling on TV is really a soap opera for men. But you can't complain or anything like that as what they sold was a full experience and some great entertainment.

So I was pretty amused when Netflix announced that they were going to release GLOW as based on the Glorious Ladies of Wrestling syndication program from the 1980's. And while I didn't have a personal relationship with the franchise myself, I could certainly appreciate what this show is all about.

So Tobie and I were pretty excited for the show for various reasons and ended up blitzing through the first season while he was packing for an overseas trip. It was a fun and crazy ride and felt like a nice tribute to the original effort.

Synopsis: GLOW is a Netflix comedy television series created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch. The series is a fictional take on original women's wrestling league as created by David McLane. It is different from the documentary also about the same group of women.

It's 1985 and Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie) is an actress struggling to find work. She's having an affair with a married man, Mark (Rich Sommer), and things are generally not going her way in life. But then she attends an unusual casting call that turns out to be for a female wrestling show as conceived by writer director Sam Sylvia. It seemed like a ridiculous notion but some of the girls who showed up for the audition agreed to give things a shot.

The bulk of the series involves the girls being trained and how they start trying to add a narrative to the whole experience. From the get-go it is stressed that they held an open audition for actresses as this was still legitimate acting. And in order to really sell the show they didn't just need athletes - the needed characters with a narrative that the fans could identify with. And for a large part of the show it takes a while for Ruth and the other girls to find their way.

What I Liked: This show is a celebration of many things. Again it is another show that celebrates the 1980's in a fun way. It's a celebration of the original Glorious Women Of Wrestling and all the struggles that went into bringing the show to life. And of course it's a celebration of the women as I'm sure some of their original stories still made it into this series.

And the show is oddly fun. It's not one of those straight-up comedies with obvious jokes. It's about real life and people making the most of an unusual situation. It's about being open to doing anything for a job just to make ends meet, even if that means dressing up in a silly outfit to represent a character persona. It's also endearing and there's a lot of heart in this production for sure.

What Could Have Been Better: The show is a great ensemble piece, but also in the sense that no one really stood out to me. And as much as Alison Brie was sort of positioned as the lead, I didn't really feel her as a character. That may have been because she was supposed to be this mousy little thing not too far away from her character on Community, or something along those lines. But yeah, the cast is largely competent but not exceptional.

The show also has some odd pacing moments and parts that feel oddly slow and parts that seem dull. The older time place setting doesn't help in that regard as I think we're getting a little saturated in 80's nostalgia, especially given other Netflix shows like Stranger Things. And thus we're a little over the novelty of seeing a big boombox and thus quiet scenes tend to drag a bit more then would have otherwise.

TL;DR: GLOW's first season is a great first effort that plunges you right into drama behind such a quirky cultural icon. It's a show that has heart and drive and unusual costumes and it certainly sets things up for a great second season, should we get that far. And thus the season gets 4 women jumping from the top rope out of a possible 5.

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