If you had told me a comedy-drama about women wrestlers could be a much fun as GLOW I probably would have laughed at you.
But this new Netflix series, co-created by Liz Flahive (Homeland) and Carly Mensch (Orange is the New Black), is just that.
It helps that this 10 part half-hour series is set in the 1980s. From its kitschy opening credits to the tune of Patty Smyth’s The Warrior to the aerobicizing class and leg warmers, there’s a decided sense of fun in this saga.
At the centre is Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), a wannabe Los Angeles actress. A ‘serious’ if slightly anarchic actress with experience in Strindberg, she shuffles from failed audition to failed audition, hoping to pay the rent and landing her big break.
But while the men get all the juicy dialogue, the women are reduced to secretaries or, even worse, porn in the Valley.
“Don’t you want to be happy and have a family?” Ruth’s best pal Debbie (Betty Gilpin) asks who ws happily written out of a soap to pursue the bliss of pregnancy and motherhood.
When a casting call comes in for “unconventional women” (and it isn’t porn) Ruth finds herself auditioning for the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, a TV sport where the women are expected to throw themselves -literally- into small screen theatrics worthy of Hulk Hogan.
“Are u SAG?” she asks one fellow auditionee.
“I’m part-Cherokee” the woman shrugs.
Jaded, misogynistic director Sam (Marc Maron) wants convincing body blows, including fanny-punching (his words), and a face that gets his attention.
“What’s motivating us?” Ruth wants to know.
I’ll leave the rest of the plot for your enjoyment, suffice to say it’s clever in its simplicity, brutally funny and awkwardly entertaining.
Painting Ruth as a loveable loser, a characteristic so often monopolised by males, is all part of the clever armoury of this series co-produced by Jenji Kohan (Orange is the New Black). Brie has this down pat, playing with ample dollops of pathos and spunk.
The political correctness injected by Flahive & Mensch is embarrassingly funny but acceptable here in an 80s time warp. Hollywood has improved since then, right? Right….?
Yet part of me worries whether the industry jokes are too insular to break beyond the fate that befall other behind-the-scenes dramatisations: will it work with mainstream audiences? Think so. Hope so.
Break out the fluro, limber up, no actual hair-pulling and make it look good.
GLOW premieres Friday June 23 on Netflix.