Welcome to the latest Netflix recap series by I, the Pennykins. This time though it’s not a Marvel series, (that’s another 6 weeks away), but a pseudo-documentary comedy series.
In the 80’s, during the first big wrestling boom lead by the then WWF, a promotion called GLOW, (or the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling), tried to nab a piece of that popularity pie. The problem was that the folks promoting it didn’t really understand wrestling, and stocked it’s roster primarily with actresses rather than actual wrestlers. The resulting dreck was an utter trainwreck to watch and the promotion didn’t survive very long. Without googling, off the top of my head the only GLOW alumni I can think of that had any semblance of a career after it folded was Terri Power, who had a 3 year stint in Attitude Era WWE as simply Tori, best remembered for a Beauty and the Beast angle with Kane that ended with her betraying him to hook up with X-Pac and DX.
Regardless of how shitty the product was, GLOW had just enough of a kitchy cheese factor to develop a cult following amongst hardcore wrestling fans, in an MST3K kind of way. And it is fans like that, (Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch), who ultimately crafted this Netflix Original love letter to the cult cheese promotion. So without further backstory adieu, let’s get into episode one of Netflix’s “GLOW”, simply titled “Pilot”.
We begin with the most 80’s intro you could possibly imagine, with a theme song straight out of a Steve Guttenberg comedy, (The Warrior), and visuals like bad neon. After the credits end, a woman stands talking to the camera, angrily about fighting for her company, which turns out to be an audition. She misread the roles and thought the male lead was a woman, which, c’mon, the 80’s, unless your character’s name is Ripley or Connor, you ain’t getting a strong female role. The women running the audition seem mildly annoyed by her daring to think big, and tell her to just read for the secretary instead. She accosts one of the women later in the ladies room for audition feedback, and we learn her name is Ruth Wilder. The producer completely insults her 6 ways from Sunday and refuses to see Ruth’s point abiout women getting a shot at the good parts, and weirdly right after I brought up Steve Guttenberg, so does the producer. Spooky.
Later Ruth is at a really bad aerobics class talking about the audition, complaining that the producer basically said all she could hope for was porn, and we get a kinda needless boob shot in the locker room that weirds me out a little. Ruth is struggling to stay afloat and is living on a diet of cheap cereal. Her friend says she should start a family but Ruth brushes it off.
Ruth arrives home to a nicer apartment than most of the ones I’ve lived in just to make sure we know this is a fictionalized biopic show, and she gets a phone call from the bitchy producer, who offers her a pity audition for someone seeking “Unconventional” women. She swears it’s not porn. The next day she shows up to audition at a gym, sitting in the bleachers with probably about four dozen other women. She reassures the woman beside her it’s not a porn audition and in a funny background moment a woman behind them starts buttoning up her shirt. A man named Sam introduces himself, talking down to the women and mansplaining what wrestling with ladies means. He is really laying on the creep factor and half the women leave. And JUST to make sure we know we’re supposed to hate him, he asks the ladies who stayed to sign a waiver absolving him of liability in case of injury or death.
The ladies I assume will be the main cast all get 20 seconds to give us a quick snippet of their characters and I’m pretty sure I spotted the Terri Power actress. Ruth gets up and we have a REALLY awkward exchange wherein neither she nor Sam show the least little bit of knowledge about how pro wrestling actually works and he continues to be a creep.
Later at home Ruth is on the phone with her mom asking for a loan to pay the phone bill and being hopeful about having gotten a callback. A man climbs in through her window and is apparently the love interest who she scolds for wanting to cheat on his wife with her. He feeds her the usual cheating douchebag lines about how cheating isn’t normal for him and she’s special and she shuts him down. He feeds her some lines about Hollywood connections and bingo, awkward ass gratuitous 80’s sex scene.
The next day at round 2 of the auditions, Sam continues to be a cut and paste creepy douche and then introduces the man who’ll be training the ladies and BAH GAWD! IT’S JOHNNY MUNDO! His character is called The Sack and yeah, we all know where this is headed. I’m no longer sure if this is a loving parody of 80’s wrestling or an indictment of it. Sam is such a cardboard cutout douche I just can’t take him seriously. Ruth fucks up by trying to improv backstory in A BLOODY PRACTICE DRILL
A trio of bloody ten years olds rob Ruth as she’s moping about losing the job and has to get her friend from the gym to pick her up. Luckily her friend has a spare key for her as her own was in her stolen purse. Her friend tries to invite her for dinner but she declines. Ruth is coming off as very pretencious at a scene read for Cat on a Hot tin Roof the next day and as a stage actres she’s just so damned boring she’s putting other readers to sleep. So later at home she starts watching wrestling to see what it’s about, with a Hulk Hogan introduction from 1984, a Howard Finkel voiceover from 1990, and a clip of Hogan v Flair from WCW Bash at the Beach 94. That had to have been an intentional flub just to amuse hardcore lifers like me. She starts practicing being a wrestling character in a silly little montage of her trying on outfits and figuring out what this wrestling shit actually means. This is honestly the first actually entertaining part of the episode.
The next day she storms into the gym in the most 80’s lady wrestler outfit possible, tells Douchey Sam he’s wrong about her, does her Cat on a Hot Tin Roof monologue like Hulk Hogan, when her friend comes in screaming profanities at her and it turns out SHE’S the wife the cheater douchebag from earlier was cheating on. She chews her out for being a whiny shallow self-absorbed bitch who wants everything handed to her and they end up fighting in the ring. Sam gets a creepy smile and suddenly we’re at a live wrestling event and this is bordering on porn. I don’t remember the actual GLOW ever being this skeevy. But it turns out Sam is having a wank fantasy watching the very real fight in the ring so that explains that. The Sack snaps him out of it and breaks up the fight.
So that’s where the pilot ends. So let’s unpack.
I understand this is a partially fictionalized pseudo-documentary. I get that it’s trying to play up the really recognizable 80’s stuff. I realize it’s Netflix and Netflix is no stranger to nudity. But based on the first episode, I’m not sure I’d watch any further episodes if it weren’t a writing gig. It seems to be trying too hard to hit too many notes. It bills itself as a comedy but there’s very little here that doesn’t feel forced. They’re trying to hard to make the obligatory leering sexist creep character unlikable, so much so that he ends up a boring 2 dimensional cutout of a bad guy. It’s like they’re slaPPING US IN THE FACE AND SCREAMING “HATE THIS CHARACTER! HE’S OUR VILLAIN! CAN’T YOU JUST SEE HOW ICKY HE IS???”
Sex scenes and nudity have their place if they make sense but here they’re just gratuitous 80’s softcore porn. The only reason it even happened was to show that our lead is really kind of a twat. Hell the only characters this whole episode who even APPROACH being likable are the angry black woman Cherry, The Sack, and the chubby native girl who has legacy in wrestling. There was only one funny scene the entire episode. I found it borderline unwatchable to be completely frank. But this is a gig so we’ll see you back here tomorrow for episode 2!
Tags: GLOW, Netflix