First Impressions: GLOW (Netflix, 2017) is a glamed-up, feminist comedy in the vein of OITNB

From the first scene, GLOW‘s feminist message is openly clear. Aspiring actor Ruth Wilder (Community alum Alison Brie) is auditioning for a role as company boss “Mel”, opening the series by delivering a sombre monologue. After finishing, she explains that she is grateful for the opportunity because  “there are not roles like this for women”, yet Ruth is informed by the casting director that she was reading for the male part – the female role was the secretary.

This scene ultimately sets the tone for the series, as the Jenji Kohan-produced (the genius behind Netflix success Orange is the New Black), half-hour dramedy follows Ruth as she joins an all-female, glam wrestling team for television – based on the real-life 80’s television show Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Along with an ensemble of hilarious women, led by struggling director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), the team attempt to create entertainment in an era of big hair, colourful spandex and (amazing) techno soundtracks.

The Kohan influence is strong – at its forefront, the show is about sisterhood. Although its real-life counterpart may not have been as feminist as this narrative adaptation, all the female characters are still written to be multi-faceted, interesting characters. At times, the women can be treated as disposable by their director Sam – to the point of racial stereotypes and often-used slurs – but at the forefront, we not only see the women of GLOW through the eyes of Ruth, but in their own light.

The story is set up in the same manner as many of Netflix’s 30-minute dramedies, such as Girlboss, where the season feels almost like a mini-film. Although I’ve only seen the first six of the ten-episode season, the pacing does feel a bit slow to start off but begins to build upon and progress at the halfway mark.

Alison Brie finally gets to shine in the spotlight as Ruth, delivering with both her excellent comedic timing and excelling at a surprising turn for a character who isn’t as innocent and bright-eyed as she first appeared to be. Marc Maron is fantastic as the deadbeat and dark-humoured director Sam Sylvia. Again with parallel to Orange is the New Black, the ensemble cast is not left behind, with my personal standouts including Betty Gilpin as former soap star Debbie Eagan and Britney Young as fellow wrestler Carmen Wade. 

The over-top-80s are represented with a great soundtrack, lots of spandex and off the chain parties. It’s worth a watch for a well-written, easy to digest, mix of drama and comedy with great acting and humour.

First Impressions Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

All ten episodes of GLOW will be available to stream this Friday, June 23rd, only on Netflix.

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