Roush Review: Feel the ‘GLOW’ in New Netflix Comedy
I can’t attest to a glow, but I can assure you that I beamed with delight watching all 10 episodes of GLOW, an exuberantly loopy deep dive into kitschy ’80s-era nostalgia. This affectionate, bawdy fable about the formation of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling pop-culture phenom is so much fun it hurts. And I’m not faking it.
The pedigree of its producers includes Nurse Jackie and Orange Is the New Black, and the characters in GLOW are just as distinctive, starting with Ruth, a desperately aspiring L.A. actress played with ruthlessly earnest charm by Alison Brie (Community). Ruth honestly believes her method will somehow make her a star amid the chaotic madness of this low-rent upstart, overseen by a curmudgeonly sleazeball movie director, Sam (comedian Marc Maron, who’s fantastic in his grizzled cynicism).
Ruth bonds with a motley collection of unexpectedly endearing bad-news babes, all camping out in a seedy Van Nuys motel while learning their arduous physical moves and creating their often outrageously stereotyped characters. (By comparison with their mock personas, the racially diverse cast carves out deeply felt performances that are anything but caricature.)
It soon becomes apparent that for Ruth to flourish in this tawdry but supercharged arena, she’ll have to play against type as the villain, taking comfort that “the devil gets all of the best lines,” even when delivered in a wretched Russian accent. This scenario pits her against the show-within-a-show’s glamorous star attraction: her real-life frenemy, former soap star Debbie (Nurse Jackie‘s Betty Gilpin in a sexy-funny tour de force), a new mom who knows something about nursing a grudge.
Few subjects would seem to interest me less than women’s wrestling, but by GLOW‘s end, as this tacky vision comes to rowdy fruition, I was cheering for them all.
GLOW, Series Premiere, Friday, June 23, Netflix