Netflix held the premiere for its latest series, the 1980s Los Angeles set wrestling dramedy GLOW, in Hollywood last night. If the first two episodes are any indication, the show is a must-watch. This isn’t quite a review, as I’d rather review the first season as a whole sometime after its release tomorrow, but here’s what I thought (spoiler free) of the first two episodes.
GLOW opens with Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie) on the latest in a string of failed auditions. She’s frustrated by the lack of real roles for women, but she’s not even getting the filler roles she’s being brought in for. After a less than helpful bit of advice from her best friend, former soap star Debbie Egan (Betty Gilpin), she gets a call about a new casting opportunity.
The audition turns out to be for a weekly wrestling show called Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, created by Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), a guy who’s sleazy and coked up in a perfectly ’80s way. Sam spends the first episode whittling the cast down to Ruth and a ragtag cast of women, including early standouts Cherry (Sydelle Noel), Carmen (Britney Young), and Sheila the She Wolf (Gayle Rankin). And of course Debbie Egan gets involved, because every show needs a star, including the show within this show.
GLOW is a show about wrestling, but it’s not a wrestling show. The in-ring action is only part of what’s important in GLOW, with character struggles, internal and interpersonal, driving everything. Ruth struggles to come to terms with her position in life and within Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Her relationship with Debbie is clearly going to be one of the major arcs for the first season, and there’s a lot of interesting ground it can cover (again, no spoilers here). That’s not to say the other women don’t have their own material to work with.
Tonally, the first two episodes of GLOW are an excellent balance of comedy and drama. This is a show that knows it’s outlandish, and it embraces the ridiculous possibilities of its premise wholeheartedly, just as it does with the glitz and glamour (or lack thereof) of its setting. There’s real drama here, with clashing personalities spread throughout the group, but every dramatic moment is blended with comedy or followed up with a gut punch of a one-liner.
GLOW is all heart, whether in its comedic or dramatic moments. It’s clearly a labor of love from everyone involved, and each of the first two episodes ends on a point that screams “watch one more.” Anyone who’s a fan of wrestling, the 1980s, comedy, strong female characters, and/or any of the show’s stars should check GLOW out as soon as possible. Just be ready to sit there for ten episodes.