by Tim Birkbeck
On the surface Netflix new series GLOW – Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling – is a dramatisation of an 80s TV show, when big hair and spandex where all the rage, and it is about wrestling.
But if you go into this show saying “but I don’t like wrestling” you will instantly miss out on the genius of it all.
From the makers of Orange is the New Black and Nurse Jackie, GLOW focuses on 14 struggling Hollywood actresses of every shape and walk of life taking a shot in the dark at something completely new. What unfolds is a sisterhood, each woman given their chance to shine, given their chance to show their character and develop a wrestling persona.
Even though the pilot does set up the typical hero (Babyface) defeats villain (Heel) story wrestling fans may be familiar with, the next nine episodes show the real life struggles of these women, as well as the down-and-out director of the show Sam Sylvia – played superbly by Marc Maron.
A lot of the main narrative of the series focuses on the friendship of Ruth (Alison Brie) and Debbie (Betty Gilpin) and how it is on tenterhooks the whole time. But to say they are the only focuses would be an injustice to the show.
There are so many magnificent women in this cast, all of whom had to learn the wrestling moves for real to make the fake look “real-fake” – expect for professional wrestler Kia Stevens, who plays Tammé Dawson. Sydelle Noel as ex-film star Cherry Bang has quiet power and a nice line in putdowns. When spoilt rich kid Melrose (Jackie Tohn) winds her up, she chokes her with a “sleeper hold” until she passes out. “That’s lunch,” she deadpans and leaves the ring. And personal favourite Rhonda, the quirky British girl with the familiar face – played by Kate Nash in a brilliant break-out role. She is at once dazzling and a total natural.
As each episode goes on, the audience falls in love with each character more and more. At the start, Ruth is a whinging try hard actress, but by the end she is this determined woman who will do whatever it takes to get this passion project off the ground. Likewise Sam is a drug-taking misogynistic male, but at the end these woman become his family, in more ways than one.
The thing which was an added treat for me as a wrestling fan were the cameos from professional wrestlers such as John Morrison and Joey Ryan, and all the little nods to the industry, it was just done so perfectly and did not make a mockery of wrestling.
In the days of binge-worthy TV, GLOW is certainly that, ten 30 minute episodes, which can be blasted through in quick succession will leave you wanting more, and eagerly waiting to see who the next competitor to wear the GLOW crown will be.
Created by: Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch
Written by: Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch
Dir: Jesse Peretz, Phil Abraham, Kate Dennis, Sian Heder, Melanie Mayron, Claire Scanlon, Tristram Shapeero, Lynn Shelton and Wendey Stanzler
Cast: Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Ellen Wong, Sydelle Noel, Britney Young, Britt Baron, Kimmy Gatewood, Rebekka Johnson, Sunita Mani, Marianna Palka, Gayle Rankin, Kia Stevens, Jackie Tohn, Kate Nash, Marc Maron and Chris Lowell
Prd: Leanne Moore