Netflix may or may not be a billion dollars in the hole, but they've spent some of their borrowed banknotes well. GLOW is another original production, with just ten 30ish minute episodes, and it is a killer dive into the not-so-glam part of California of the eighties and the [true story] rise of women's wrestling.
As a child of the eighties, I have vague memories of WWF bouts on USA Network, with Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage swanning about, but my sister and I both preferred American Gladiators to the one-on-one "drama" of "professional" wrestling. So I can't really speak to the veracity of the boob tube experience of watching the pink ropes from home. However, I have very strong memories of my mom's huge soft waves of hair, of those jazzercise high-cut leotards, of beige analog phones, and banana clips. Those elements are captured pretty accurately.
The hair of Alison Brie, who plays the central protagonist, Ruth, is especially On Time. I read that she got it permed to achieve that perfectly fluffy bob, though her character clearly could only have afforded to do the Ogilve at-home kind. She makes deliberate choices as an actor (both Brie, being amazing as always and far less precious than I've seen her in other roles, and as Ruth, an actress who just needs a job and a good monologue) and some shit decisions as a person, and she is a very good center. That being said, though, this show is about the ensemble as much as the ensembles, and the cast is so, so good.
Marc Maron and his mustache (as director Sam) make my living room smell like Camel Lights, and I find this vaguely attractive. I never thought I would have much sympathy for a B-list white guy who gets all bent out of shape over not getting to make a movie called Mothers and Lovers, but I do. According to Variety, I am him. Tentatively shipping Sam and Ruth, but more hoping they lean into the friendship that is building between them (he should really stop sleeping with his cast).
Betty Gilpin rounds out the lead section; she plays Debbie, who was Ruth's best friend until she found out Ruth slept with her husband (twice. But, like, they know each other from Mad Men and other things, so let's stop acting shocked). Gilpin plays a new mom and former soap opera star, and she slowly won me over. I think the character of Debbie is well-written (she gets bitten while breastfeeding, she is aware that she's the pretty blonde who should be the lead, thanks, she gets a great moment to own her new power over her body), but she's also the kind of character who can be easy to dislike or dismiss. Gilpin does great work digging in to what is probably the least comedic role and finding opportunities to be more dimensional. In the same party sequence in Ep9 where she gives the great "I'm back in my body" lines, she's first introduced to the producer's mother (played by Elizabeth Perkins) who simply says, "My, you certainly wear a lot of make up." Debbie responds, "Oh, thank you," and Gilpin shows the realization dawn that she was not actually complimented in the brief faltering of "you," and a nose crinkle that is just... real good.
The rest of the characters are sketches, but those really good sketches that are interesting to find in a gallery. Nearly any of the women - looking at you, Sheila the Wolf - could easily have been reduced to a joke or stereotype, and instead is given an opportunity (or seven) to show that they are fully rounded women. They have husbands, they love celebrating birthdays, they order pizza because they're good wingmen. My favorite is probably Carmen (played by Britney Young), who is so fucking adorable. She is like a cross between Renee Zellweger and Andre the Giant, and I am unabashedly shipping her with Bash. He could have easily been played by a knock-off James Spader but is instead played by a sunbleached Rob Lowe throw-back (Chris Lowell is Sebastian "Bash" Howard, the aforementioned producer). He has a delightfully neon glow about him, especially when he's near Carmen.
I accidentally watched this show one night that I was the last one up, and I completed it in about a week - which is a fucking record for me, even in this era of binge watching. (I think I may have watched Stranger Things in a similar time frame; clearly a show just needs to be set i the eighties to get me motivated.) Do yourself a favor and enjoy this treat of a show, which will be quietly throwing your expectations in a chokehold and sashaying away with some bruises and a smile.