The 1980s are a big destination on the cultural landscape nowadays and, after the success of Stranger Things last summer, the Reagan Era is a big deal on Netflix too as the binge-worthy GLOW makes very clear.
Set in 1985 and the spandex-covered world of female wrestling and partially based on the nutty four-season series of the same name, the great June 23-launching GLOW is a ton of big hair, synth soundtrack, neon, killer kitsch and in-the-ring fun. But with all its moves, tumbles and dilemma, the dramedy created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch also pulls you into its low-budget cable-show-within-a-show universe, as I say in video review above. Like the sleight-of-hand moves that anyone who’s ever watched WrestleMania knows so well, the Alison Brie- and Marc Maron-led ensemble delivers big-picture pile-drivers on gender roles, Hollywood sexism, reinvention in the City of Angels and finding yourself in ways you never expected.
Ordered straight to series, the 10-episode first season executive produced by Orange Is The New Black creator Jenji Kohan finds Community alum Brie as a struggling and not-so-talented actress hitting the glass ceiling of rejection and prejudice in the Tinseltown of more than 30 years ago. Out of desperation and initially treating the whole thing like performance art, Brie’s Ruth Wilder attends an open casting call for a slapped-together female wrestling league pilot. The show within a show is being put together on the quick and cheap in a Hail Mary career move by failing hack feature director Sam Sylvia, played by WTF podcast host Maron.
Although GLOW spends a lot of its early episodes setting up the situation and its large cast of characters, both Brie and Maron are excellent. So good, in fact — and I’m sure he hate to hear this — that Maron, who had a self-titled IFC series for four seasons, might want to consider giving up his successful podcast day job. Add to that the muscular performances of Nurse Jackie vet Betty Gilpin, former real life wrestler Kia Stevens, UK singer Kate Nash, Ellen Wong, Sydelle Noel, the rock video queen-playing Jackie Tohn, Britney Young, Gayle Rankin, Mr. Robot’s Sunita Mani, Marianna Palka, Kimmy Gatewood, Rebekka Johnson and Grey’s Anatomy’s Brit Baron and there are (no spoilers) many stereotypes set up and smashed apart.
Take a look at the video review to see more of my take on GLOW — executive produced by Flahive, Mensch, Kohan and Tara Herrmann — and book several hours next weekend to get in the ring with it.