It’s the 80’s and actress Ruth Wilder’s (Alison Brie) life isn’t going according to plan. She’s not getting any of the roles she wants, she’s broke and she’s been sleeping with her best friend, Debbie’s (Betty Gilpin) husband (Rich Sommer). Drawn in by an intriguing advert she finds herself at an audition for GLOW – Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.
The other auditionees include a stuntwoman, an athlete, a Madonna wannabe, a woman who thinks she’s a wolf, a pair of comedic colleagues and the daughter of a famous wrestler. The one thing they all have in common is that none of them can wrestle. At the helm are Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), a down on his luck cult horror director and Bash Howard (Chris Lowell), a superfan with a trust fund. What could possibly go wrong?
Well everything really. When Debbie discovers what Ruth has been up to she interrupts rehearsals to confront her and sparks Sam’s interest. Debbie has given up her career as a soap actress for marriage and motherhood and in the process lost herself. The idea of starting again appeals to her, however working with Ruth appeals to neither of them.
As the group comes together, bonds, argues, shares, develops their personas and learns the tricks of the trade there’s a lot of humour and a lot of drama. The core relationship at the centre of the show is that between Ruth and Debbie but there are so many other interesting dynamics at play. Not least of all Ruth’s relationship with Sam who finds her in equal parts fascinating and infuriating.
Each character is like a box to unpack and there’s an impressive amount of development for a season that comprises ten half hour episodes. I found what drew me in was how much my opinion of each character changed throughout the show. Initially I found Ruth so annoying that I considered abandoning the show but understanding her motivations takes her from desperate to tenacious. Bash also initially seems like a deluded wanker but his warmth towards Britney (Carmen Wade) when she faces stage fright is lovely.
The other thing that makes the show really powerful is the number of issues it explores. The characters are all judged and stereotyped as women based on their appearances, which raises a number of feminist issues. There are also questions around racism, how motherhood affects identity and of course, male-female dynamics.
It’s a great show that is light-hearted on the surface but much deeper if you take the time to look. While Brie is great as the endlessly ambitious, Ruth, it’s Gilpin who stands out playing a woman filled with rage and not sure where to direct it.
Definitely worth a watch.