*Minor spoilers below*
Let's be honest, as soon as the credits rolled up on that opening episode of GLOW, you loved it. The bang of eighties off it was enough to hook the most cynical of viewer in because, as Netflix discovered last summer with Stranger Things, audiences just cannot get enough of nostalgia these days.
However you can't simply rely on a few legwarmers, an Omnibot and a bit of Patty Smith to make a great show (actually... we'll get back to you on that one) so it's lucky that GLOW had some impressive talent on board too, both in front and behind the camera.
GLOW is created by Liz Flahive (Homeland, Nurse Jackie) and Carly Mensch (Nurse Jackie, Orange Is The New Black, Weeds), who also serve as showrunners, while Orange Is the New Black's creator Jenji Kohan and Tara Herrmann executive produce. These ladies know how to write good TV, and even better, they know how to write great female characters.
Community's Alison Brie takes on the lead as Ruth Wilder, a struggling actress trying to make her way in a Hollywood that rarely gives any roles of interest to women, and according to a casting agent, is the 'real girl' directors think they want but actually don't. Her best friend is Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin), a former soap actress who has recently become a mother. The pair have a natural chemistry together and it would be easy to assume that their friendship would be a focal point of the series, which it is... but not in the way you might have initially thought.
The revelation in the opening episode that the married man Ruth was sleeping with was actually Debbie's husband was one that kicked right in the gut. We had liked Ruth, we were already rooting for her, and here we find out that she was capable of a betrayal as irredeemable as this. However, once the shock had worn off, the reality with what we were left with wasn't so bad. Ruth isn't the perfect best friend, she isn't the chaste female, she's just sort of trucking along doing her best. Ruth is flawed, or 'real' as the casting director called her, and you know what, it makes for a far more interesting character - as annoying as she could be at times. In fact, every character is this diverse cast is flawed (like you know, actual humans in the world) and it only endears you to them more.
The comparison to Orange is the New Black is easy to make, but thankfully GLOW isn't weighed down with the drama of prison and there's more scope for fun to be had. These ladies may not have picture perfect lifestyles, but there is more than meets the eye for all of them and their personalities manage to subvert the cultural stereotypes of their exaggerated wrestling characters with ease. As with Orange is the New Black, the show suffers from a rather irritating lead, but this seems far more intentional that it does in the former. As we said, we do like Ruth, yes, but her impromptu monologues and deep seeded insecurity start to grate fairly fast. It's then however that Betty Gilpin can step in with a pitch perfect performance as the diva star of the show as well as a heartbroken yet tough as nails woman.
Marc Maron also hit all the right notes in his role as Sam, with each episode gradually giving him a bit more depth until we found ourselves liking the cynical old codger. Cherry (Sydelle Noel), Carmen (Britney Young), Sheila (Gayle Rankin) Rhona (singer turned actress Kate Nash) and of course Bash (Chris Lowell) also left their mark which is difficult to do with a cast this big, though at times it seemed like the writers got a little too hammered down with trying to set all of these characters up for more seasons.
While we have you, Bash's mother - Elizabeth Perkins! Although looking pretty unrecognisable thanks to getting a hell of a lot of work done, but great to have a cameo from such an iconic eighties star.
What GLOW manages to do so well is to hit us with an easily digestible first season that has made us cheer, boo - and who would have thought it - but actually get the fascination with wrestling. It's funny too, and it's smart about its humour, with a joke rarely falling flat and decent actors that knew how to deliver them. Sure, there are scenes we could have done without and it took just that little bit too long to get it off the ground, but the payoff was still there in the end for that spectacular finale that left us longing for more.
Most of all, GLOW was fun. From the big hair to the fist-pumping montages and that toe-tapping eighties soundtrack, it's a show that knows not to take itself too seriously but is far more than the sum of its parts. We don't doubt there is plenty more to come from these Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling and we'll want to be ringside every step of the way.