RECOMMENDED: "GLOW" ON NETFLIX
Guys, I don't want to get ahead of myself here, and I've only seen the first 7 of 10 episodes, but "GLOW" may be a just about perfect comedy-drama series. Seriously. There isn't a character here that's not idiosyncratic, interesting and unexpected. There's not a comic scenario explored that doesn't build to some kind of funny, but also sort of sweet, pay-off. The period trappings are detailed and thoughtful and fun but don't become overwhelming or ever play as easy "Hey, the '80s were messed up, right?" pandering. Alison Brie and Marc Maron are giving hilarious, but also brutally honest, performances. I DEVOURED these episodes before I got so sleepy, I had to stop for the night. This is not a show for binging; it's a show for inhaling in one long, satisfying breath. And the BRILLIANT decision to cap episodes at 30 minutes instead of the usual Netflix hour means it never sags, and no episodes feel like "filler" to postpone the big action until the finale.
The set-up, in brief: A ragtag bunch of misfits in 1985 Los Angeles are recruited by schlock B-movie director Sam Sylvia (Maron) to star in a new syndicated women's wrestling TV series, called "GLOW: The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling." (Though "GLOW" itself was a real '80s TV show, and some of the elements of the film are based on the real people involved, it's a heavily fictionalized retelling.) Though we get to know all of the women involved, and spend some time with Sam's drug-addled personal life as well, we follow the league's development mainly through the eyes of one of those recruits: struggling actresses Ruth Wilder (Brie).
Brie finally blows away this long-standing idea that she an ideal supporting player who couldn't carry a show on her own. As Ruth, she's playing someone who is often ridiculous, who may not even be a truly gifted actress, and who makes some very questionable choices, but Brie never once makes you doubt whether your want to stay on her side. Even at her worst, she exudes such a purity of spirit - a sense that she's a good person doing bad things - and sharp wit, it's impossible to stay mad at her, even when she's sleeping with her best friend's husband. That friend is Debbie (Betty Gilpin), who shows up at Ruth's GLOW audition to confront her about being a home-wrecker, and winds up getting cast herself.
What's maybe most impressive about "GLOW" is how it manages to extract so much comic material about of this ragtag cast of eccentrics, but without ever coming off as cutting or mean, or reducing them to stereotypes. (Some of the most effective material in the show involves the women reacting with a combination of amused surprise and disgust at the frequently racist and misogynist characters they'll be playing in the ring.) The fact that the show leans in to the sometimes out-of-step, throwback elements of "GLOW" - including a wonderfully wry turn from Kia Steven as the ostentatious "Welfare Queen" - really elevates it as a work of not just charming human comedy, but social commentary as well.
I don't want to say anything more about "GLOW" because you should discover its pleasures yourself. It's only 10 30-minute episodes. I'd say you could reasonably blow through it in an afternoon. It's one of my favorite shows of the year so far, by a lot.
Where to Watch: Netflix
Episodes: 10 (1 season)
Running Time: 29-37 minutes each
Genre: Sports Comedy-Drama