The first season of “GLOW” premiered on Netflix on June 23, 2017. The series took its genesis from the “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling,” an all female televised wrestling show, which was founded in 1986 by David McLane, and filmed in Las Vegas, Nevada, until its cancellation in 1989. “GLOW” the series, created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, takes place in Los Angeles, California, and showcases a diverse group of women, who are all seeking something more out of life than their current situation offers. The ten episodes that comprised the first season were both heartfelt and comical.
A truncated recap of season one is as follows: In 1980s, Los Angeles, California, Ruth Wilder, portrayed by Golden Globe nominee, Alison Brie (Mad Men), is a talented, but struggling actress, who is attempting to land a respectable role in a film or television series. After badgering casting director Mallory (Amy Farrington), for whom she has auditioned on multiple occasions, but has received no roles, Amy provides information about a casting call, that she herself is not in charge of. When Ruth arrives at the audition, which takes place in a gymnasium instead of an office, she learns that the part she is trying out for is that of a female wrestler, who, in time, will have to learn to actually wrestle if she wants to appear on television. The show’s director, Sam Sylvia, played by Marc Maron (Maron), is a former horror movie writer and director, whose best days are seemingly behind him. Sylvia’s job, in addition to directing and scripting the storylines for the pilot episode, is first and foremost to cast the right assemblage of talent to hopefully entice a network to pick up “GLOW” as a regular series. Sam has ulterior motives, because what he truly desires is for Bash Howard (Chris Lowell), the executive producer of “GLOW,” to provide the money that it will take to make his next movie. The other key member from the first season’s cast was Emmy nominee, Betty Gilpin’s, (Nurse Jackie) character, former soap-opera actress, Debbie Eagan. She had decided to take time off from her career in order to raise her child, and is now looking to get back in front of the camera. The combination of Debbie and Ruth working together is a combustible one because Ruth slept with Debbie’s husband, Mark (Rich Sommer); something Debbie has not forgiven, as evidenced from the slap she gives Ruth in front of everyone, including Sam, who senses he can use the ladies antagonism toward one another to great advantage for the show. Eventually, as the first season progresses, Ruth winds up embodying the character of the American-despising Russian, ‘Zoya the Destroyer,’ while Debbie, captures the hearts of the “GLOW” fan base while playing the all American girl, ‘Liberty Belle.’ The rest of the ensemble cast is highlighted during different scenes, but it is season two where the other wrestlers will receive more screen time, and viewers will learn more about their lives outside of the ring.
The start of the second season finds the ladies of “GLOW” having had their show picked up by a network to air as a series. The time slot they’re given is awful, the contracts the ladies must each sign is one-sided to benefit the network, and there is also the arrival of a new cast member, Yolanda Rivas (Shakira Barrera). She has replaced stunt woman and wrestler, Cherry Bang (Sydelle Noel), who has left “GLOW” in order to pursue her first real acting role as a detective on a police procedural. The fact that Yolanda didn’t have to go through the initial trials and tribulations to help get “GLOW” on the air, doesn’t sit well with a majority of the wrestlers. Leaving that bit of negativity aside, as well as the fact that Ruth and Debbie are still not on the best of terms, “GLOW” begins to transform into what the show will become moving forward; it captures all of the kitsch that made 1980s wrestling such a fun time to become a fan of sports entertainment. The over-the-top storylines featuring whacky vignettes that include: dream sequences; a public service announcement pointing out the hardships of teenage pregnancy, that stars Sam’s daughter Justine (Britt Baron); music videos featuring a number of the wrestlers; and of course plenty of in-ring action.
“GLOW,” however, for as fun and carefree as it can be a good deal of the time, does incorporate serious toned material, meant to further flesh out the show’s characters. Topics that are dealt with during the duration of the ten episodes that make up season two, include: the responsibilities and hardships that single mothers have to deal with; the limited, at least at the time, opportunities for women to garner more of a controlling interest behind the scenes in entertainment; and long before the current era of the #Me too Movement, how women either went along with the sexual advances of men of power to advance their careers, or said no, and faced potential consequences because of their refusal.
In addition to Brie, Gilpin, and Maron continuing to believably embody their respective roles from season one, other performers get their deserved time to shine. For example, Kia Stevens portrays Tameé Dawson, whose in-ring moniker is that of the fur coat wearing, Welfare Queen, who taunts the “GLOW” audience with the fact that they pay for her to not work. The reality of her life outside of the ring couldn’t be further from her character’s life. Tameé is a single mother, who is working as hard as she can, which includes selling her own, homemade, action figures. She is doing everything she can in order to help pay for her son, Earnest’s (Eli Goree), tuition at Stanford University. When Earnest comes to see his mother wrestle, he is emotionally distraught that she is playing a stereotype in order to help further his education, but Tameé, the proud mother, will hear none-of-it; she’s going to do whatever it takes to see that her son has the best opportunities in life. Professional wrestling fans will already have familiarity with Kia Stevens from her days in the ring when she wrestled under the names ‘Awesome Kong,’ ‘Amazing Kong,’ and ‘Kharma.’
In closing, I’ll re-state what I said when I reviewed season one, that while being a fan of professional wrestling, especially 1980’s wrestling, might give a viewer a deeper appreciation of what is being shown, it is not a necessity to enjoy the show. The second season of “GLOW”, did not, in my opinion, have a sophomore slump. The last episode reveals the location and situation of where season three will take place, something I won’t spoil for those of you who want to, and have yet to, watch the show. I’ll admit, it took me less than a week to finish all of season two, since at only 35 minutes an episode it was easy to watch a few episodes each evening. The only bad part about finishing it so quickly is I know I now have to wait at least a year before season three is streamed on Netflix, that is if, and hopefully when, it is renewed; as of the writing of this post, Netflix has not confirmed definite plans for the series.