I really don’t watch a lot of TV any more, which is strange because ten years ago I used to watch it almost incessantly. Whether it was House, The Wire or Monday Night Raw, I was regularly tuned in intently to the old idiot box. However, as I’ve aged I’ve tended to watch less and less television, to the point that the only shows I’ll regularly watch when they’re on are South Park and maybe Doctor Who. These days I’m much more likely to watch a video via streaming mediums, such as YouTube or the WWE Network. My Sky dish is all but unused these days, aside from the showing of live sports, with everything else going through my PS4 or Amazon Fire Stick.
Considering my change in viewing habits, it only made sense that I’d eventually bite the bullet and get myself a Netflix account. It was two specific things that finally swung me in favour of signing up, however. One was that Lucha Underground was coming to the service (although frustratingly the series hasn’t found its way to the UK version of Netflix yet), and the second was that I was hearing a lot of good things about GLOW.
GLOW, standing for “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling”, is a fictional story inspired by the syndicated 80s wrestling show of the same name. The plot largely centres on struggling actor Ruth (Alison Brie) as she tries to succeed within the ropes alongside a colourful group of outcasts and nut jobs. Ruth sees herself as a serious actor, something that fails to impress foul-mouthed director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), and he makes things hard for her almost immediately.
However, after Ruth gets into a very real bust-up at the wrestling gym with her friend, Debbie (Betty Gilpin), Sam sees dollar signs in his eyes, and Ruth wins a spot on the show opposite her reluctant, now former, chum. I won’t go into any further details in fear of spoiling things, but Ruth and Debbie’s relationship plays a key role in the story going forward, and thankfully, it manages to dodge going down the usual cliché story path often seen when friends fall out.
As previously mentioned, the show features a varied collection of zany support characters, such as freaky She-Wolf Sheila (Gayle Rankin), air-headed but genuinely well-meaning Rhonda (Kate Nash) and spikey party girl Melrose (Jackie Tohn).
There’s also a fantastic performance from Kia Stevens (of WWE and TNA fame) as Tamme “The Welfare Queen”. Considering Stevens’s big break in wrestling came when she dominated the TNA Knockouts Division as the almost totally mute Awesome Kong, it’s exceedingly enjoyable to see her break from the norm and play a completely different character. If nothing else, I certainly hope there are further roles for her in other shows because she really hits it for six here.
The show is primarily a comedy, but it also isn’t afraid to get heavier on occasion when the situation calls for it. Such moments give Brie and Maron in particular the opportunity to flex their not indiscernible acting prowess. Equal praise should also be afforded to Sydelle Noel for her excellent performance as stern but fair wrestling coach Cherry, who often gets roped into being Sam’s right hand woman, even if she doesn’t want to be.
All faces of the wrestling industry get screen time, with the creative and hardworking elements being offset by the seedy and offensive. The show takes jabs at pre-existing wrestling stereotypes, some of which can still be found today, but there’s also a scene set in a live wrestling match where a noted sceptic amongst the trainees finally “gets” wrestling and learns to appreciate it as an entertainment medium. It also gives a chance for former WWE Superstar Alex Riley to make an appearance as muscular working man’s hero “Steel Horse”, and he delivers a very smooth performance explaining to the trainees why a wrestling villain needs a hero to oppose and vice versa.
I found myself laughing out loud during certain moments, and the show has an at times acerbic and offensive sense of humour that I really enjoyed. I also felt pangs of sadness during some of the weightier scenes, and I think the show overall has a very good balance between comedy and drama.
One scene in particular lets us see a softer side of Sam, as Ruth turns to him in a moment of need and he surprisingly comes through for her. It’s a very powerful sequence of television that takes the viewer through a slew of competing emotions and ends with a flat, yet highly appropriate, final scene with one of the more emotionally arresting visuals of the series.
GLOW comes highly rated from yours truly. I really enjoyed watching it, and it also feels like a show I’d be happy to revisit at a later date as well. I blew through it in a couple of days, which I hardly ever do with television shows anymore, and I was left wanting more when the tenth and final episode came to a close. When a show is so good that you don’t want to go to bed and end up in work bleary eyed the next day because you just had to watch one more episode, you know it’s a bit special.
Though I think wrestling fans will certainly enjoy the show, I also think even non-fans will find enough comedy and dramatic elements to keep them entertained. You really don’t need to know about or truly understand wrestling in order to follow the show, but having a bit of wrestling knowledge will certainly enhance the overall experience.
If you’re on the fence about signing up to Netflix, as I was, GLOW is yet another good reason to part with your cash and sign up. I just need them to upload Lucha Underground now and I’m laughing. Come on Netflix, pull your fingers out!
It’ll be back to video games next week, as I visit the crease with a popular game from the fifth generation.
Thanks for reading
Until next time;