In the lovely, lively new Netflix comedy “GLOW,” which premieres Friday morning a minute after midnight, Alison Brie plays Ruth, a never-hired actress in 1985 Hollywood who stumbles into the world of professional wrestling.
Created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, with “Orange Is the New Black” creator Jenji Kohan as an executive producer and contributing writer, the series is, broadly speaking, the story of the creation of a cable TV pilot, “GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling,” set back when cable and wrestling were truly subcultural. Like wrestling itself, it is based in stories both about sports and show business. (“Are you hiring actors to play wrestlers, or are we wrestlers?” Ruth asks Sam. “Yes,” he replies.)
It’s a tale of conflict and cooperation, about teamwork disguised as rivalry, and rivalry subsumed in teamwork, of plucky outsiders fighting for respect and self-respect. And the story of women living in close proximity has something in common with “Orange Is the New Black”; the wrestlers all move into the same motel while they train, and though they are free to leave, one might say they are prisoners of their own need to stay.
Some characters get more screen time than others, but none are shallow; all get to tell you at least a little bit about who they are, without making too obvious a point of it.
“GLOW” was an actual ’80s wrestling show, the first to feature women. I have no idea how closely this fiction hews to the historical record, but the series is too well-made for it to matter one way or the other. It is a story takes you into its own, fully realized world and an attitude of respect characterizes the entire series; you may finish the series with a better opinion of professional wrestling than when you went in.
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