GLOW returns to Netflix on June 29th.
By Matthew Stanford
I often discuss TV with friends, co-workers, and others and I have found it strange that it seems the general public has relatively mixed feelings about the first season of GLOW. I felt like it was a melting pot of ideas, had unexpected dramatic moments and most of all it was FUN. I’m not sure if those that disliked it didn’t make it far enough into the season as it became a stronger show around episode four. If you gave up without finishing Season 1, I recommend you give it another chance.
If you are unfamiliar, GLOW takes place in the 80’s and follows a director that has burned his last bridge and a group of ladies that are struggling to make it as actresses. Together they create the “Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling.” While GLOW was an actual show in the 80’s, this isn’t based on fact and is a fictional depiction of what it may have been like to make that show. The show is a dramedy, but it tends to lean a bit more to the comedy end of the spectrum.
The story picks up with the director (Sam) and ladies ready to begin filming a full season of GLOW for KCTV. The wrestling program is no longer a dream they are chasing but a tangible show that they have to figure out how to create. There is an episode early in the season that relies heavily on showing life outside of work for Tammé AKA “Welfare Queen.” While I always like seeing characters become multi-dimensional, this reminded me of the “how did so and so get here” gimmick from “Orange is the New Black.” I was concerned that this would continue throughout the season with each character, but thankfully it did not. Other characters gained added dimensions but through other means.
A good comp for GLOW is the film “A League of their Own.” Sam, the director, fills the Tom Hanks role as the almost father-like figure that is rough around the edges but has a good heart and helps guides his team of ladies. GLOW is created and written by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, and they have created many characters to care about and, more importantly, feel like real people. Yes, the show is over the top and the show within the show is very outrageous, but behind it, each character has a mask that gets chipped away at until you can see that real personality exists behind the façade.
Every character/actor/actress has their moment to shine this season, but the focus is on the director Sam (Marc Maron), Debbie AKA Liberty Bell (Betty Gilpin) and Ruth AKA Zoya (Alison Brie). All three are fantastic in their parts and have Emmy reel moments come awards season. Debbie and Ruth are still dealing with the fact that they are former best friends whose friendship and lives were shattered when Ruth slept with Debbie’s husband (twice).
While the season is full of great performances and writing, I want to highlight how much I applaud the direction that Flahive and Mensch took the character of Sam and Marc Maron’s performance. He is a flawed guy that is down on his luck, suddenly has a 16-year-old daughter that he never knew existed, grumpy, stubborn and at the end of the day extremely decent human being. There is a specific moment midway through the season where the writers could have taken Sam down a path of darkness or at the very least negligence and instead they decided to have him honorably.
Besides the leads, another standout for me this year was Arthie AKA Beirut. She is played by Sunita Mani who was also fantastic as Trenton on Mr. Robot. While she doesn’t have nearly as much screen time as others, Mani makes the most of it and has an almost child-like wonder and excitement that is expressed in playing this character.
When reviewing shows, we critics are sometimes only provided with a portion of a season and have to forge our thoughts based on a piece of the puzzle. In this case, Netflix provided the entire 10-episode season, and I feel that this was the right call. If I had only seen the first five episodes of season 2, I might have written a relatively negative review. Much like the first season, the second half was MUCH stronger.
Bottom line: Episodes average around 30 minutes, it is not a significant time commitment and being able to watch the second half of the season is worth the journey. Also, if you don’t enjoy seeing a PSA about teen pregnancy in a show within a show where a grown woman is dressed like a baby and close lining people, I’m not sure we are going to see eye to eye on comedy.
I give season 2 of GLOW an A-.