TV: GLOW – Season 1 (2017)

December 21, 2017 | By

Film: Excellent

Transfer:  n/a

Extras: n/a

Label:  n/a

Region: n/a

Released:  n/a

Genre:  TV / comedy / drama / wrestling

Synopsis: Episodic dramatization of how the cult women’s wrestling series GLOW (Glamorous Ladies of Wrestling) began in 1985.

Special Features:  n/a




Based on the cult 1986-1992 series Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW), in which actresses, stuntwomen, models, and the curious created outrageous ring personas and engaged in choreographed matches tied to fictional backstories, Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch’s 2017 series is so meticulously crafted, the pilot alone ranks as one of the most perfect season openers for any comedic series.

Where network shows had a history of retooling later episodes after network brass and test audiences sent their picky feedback, Flahive (Homeland, Nurse Jackie) and Mensch (Orange is the New Black, Nurse Jackie) seemed to have sold their concept with a series of mandatory elements: the women are strong, independent, resourceful, and funny, and all body types and ethnicities are to be celebrated in each episode.

It sounds like a pitch for a politically correct series, but as vital as those tenets are to the show’s integrity, Sam – the man who puts out the cattle call for a wrestling series, winnows the group down to a core, and organizes the training sessions that lead up to the first televised bout – is an unashamed, unapologetic, vulgar, insensitive arse, but like the women, he too has an intense hunger to transcend a mundane life and live out a crazy dream of creating art in the most unlikely form of what was then unproven entertainment.

Perfectly cast, this fairly meticulously researched series is set around 1985 when sexploitation filmmaker Sam Sylvia (striking Terry Keiser lookalike Marc Maron) is inspired by a concept brought to him by indie financier / spoiled brat Sebastian (Chris Lowell): a series about women wrestlers, with dreamer Sam taking his flair for epic / ridiculous narratives and mandating everyone must create a persona and backstory that’ll guarantee infamy inside and outside of the ring.

The personas come from first impressions, sometimes racist assessments (some of which backfire) or pinched caricatures – a southern belle, a welfare hog, and a goth queen (of sorts) – and although there is questioning and outrage that sometimes addresses the poor taste of Sam’s decisions, GLOW‘s first season follows the perpetually successful formula of rebels, oddballs, and social outcast who fight for the crazy dream and achieve the seemingly unlikely (but generically predictable) fusion of disparate characters gelling into a team; it’s like an Our Gang tale of the kids putting on a play using their wits, tattered clothes and hand-built sets from the junkyard; or the rebels in an arts school who stop fighting among each other and learn team building, and put on a play that sets parents, the community, and curious influential agents on fire.

How the show transcends the clichés is through a core group of solid characters whose relationships are interconnected in the most unlikely threads: former soap queen / new mom Debbie (Betty Gilpin) must work with former best friend / stage trained Ruth (Alison Brie) after the latter’s caught shagging the former’s husband. Sam’s the antagonistic force who decides the pair’s distrust and tensions work well for their coupling as ring nemeses, but only after they’ve failed to ignite even a glint of chemistry with the other GLOW members, each of whom has something to prove, holds secrets, or have taken the challenge to train for a scripted wrestling show because their lives need a jolt.

There are supportive husbands, separated husbands, ex-lovers, and peripheral oddballs among the characters, and the show’s production team has done great research in evoking the period (one fail excepted) through wardrobe, cars, locations, music, and a sense of humour that takes risks while testing 2017 safe zones by pushing stereotypes to sometimes horrifying degrees before reeling back and deflating most of the shock with many, many sharp lines.

This is one of the finest, smartest, sharpest and hysterical comedy shows in TV never produced by the classic networks, and perhaps GLOW could only exist outside of the establishment, since Netflix is comfortable allowing show creators to puncture decrees within the archaic network Standards & Practices. It’s also a tight set of 10 half-hour episodes that balance humour, comedy, social criticism, and profile the lead characters as they legitimately trained and refined the moves that make them credible as newcomers to wrestling, ready for the Big Show that launched the original GLOW.

If the writing, direction, and acting remain fit, Season 2 should prove just as compelling and entertaining, now that the characters of GLOW 2017 are hungry to perform the revenge and grudge matches of their outrageous personas.

Being an original Netflix series, GLOW remains unavailable on home video, and streams exclusively via the online network.



© 2017 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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