Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The 1980's Lose Their Glow With Season 1.

The Good: Acting is okay, A few moments of humor
The Bad: Mediocre direction, Dull plot, Unlikable/uninteresting characters/Predictable character arcs
The Basics: Glow Season 1 fails to maintain the viewer's interest.

Netflix usually has a strong record with its television shows, as opposed to its original release films. So, when the streaming service releases a new television series, I have a long habit of binging it right away and reviewing it. As such, it says something that it has taken me so long to get through the first season of Glow. Glow dropped four days ago and its first season consisted of ten (roughly) half-hour episodes. And it took me until today to finish trundling through the season to review it.

Glow is a pretty simple concept for a television show and the fundamental problem with the frequently-boring first season of the show is that it does not get much more complicated than its original set-up, even though it tries through a Lost-esque series of character revelations involving backstories for the main characters. In fact, the more Glow attempts to flesh out its characters, the more it feels like a show we have seen before . . . with better, more interesting, more likable, characters.

Set in the 1980s, Ruth Wilder is an aspiring actress who is very serious about her craft, but who has not had much in the way of work. She loathes the crappy roles being written for women and has trouble getting cast as a result. Ruth is set up to audition for G.L.O.W. - Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling and the coked-up director, Sam, cuts her fairly early in the audition process. But, when Ruth goes to assert herself during a training session, her best friend Debbie (a former soap opera actress) comes in and starts a legitimate fight with her in the ring, based upon the fact that Ruth slept with Debbie's husband. That inspires Sam to cast both of them for the project.

Soon, though, Sam's ambitions for a long narrative and compellingly-derived characters for each of the actresses falls prey to the producer's desire to save and make money and just show off women wrestling. So, despite Ruth, Debbie, Cherry, and Arthie having smart ideas for their characters, they are quickly put into little boxes based upon their ethnicity or appearance and they find themselves moving toward doing a pretty generic wrestling show.

The thing is, Glow Season 1 has moments of potential, but it focuses far more on the setting and weird esoteric details instead of the characters. So, for example, in the eighth episode, a decent chunk of time is wasted showing the pregnancy test Ruth takes. We get it; it's the 1980s - pregnancy tests were different then. But we got that the show was set in the 1980s from the soundtrack and blue jeans of the first episode, long before we see the classic Tampax packaging and the drawn out pregnancy test. This robs the episode of the chance to actually develop some of the characters. In the same episode, when Sheila is having a birthday party foisted upon her, Jenny is saddened when she does not have the chance to get Sheila to blow out the candles. The sadness she emotes is presented, but it lacks impact because Jenny has had virtually no presence in the show up until that point.

In a similar fashion, Glow seems to be obsessed with pushing the envelope by showing what can't (traditionally) be shown on television. So, while rejecting that there will ever be a time when two black women wrestle two KKK-outfitted women, Glow Season 1 actually shows that match. Characters use blow, screw, and have affairs and abortions. The problem is, there's a whole "who cares" aspect to the first season of Glow - it plays like a behind-the-scenes soap opera documentary of a sports movie with incredibly narrow appeal.

The death knell of Glow Season 1 is that in a television show with a predominately female cast and most of the protagonists are women doing something that is vaguely covered under the banner of "female empowerment," Marc Maron steals the show. Maron's character of Sam is the director, who wrangles the women and is a smarmy washed up guy, is a variation on his quasi-autobiographical character from Maron. But Marc Maron steals every scene he is in and makes an often dismal show watchable.

Unfortunately, there is not enough Marc Maron, not enough character, not enough cleverness or originality to make the first season of Glow worth watching.

For other works from the 2016 – 2017 television season, please check out my reviews of:
"World Enough And Time" - Doctor Who
"The Return Part 8" - Twin Peaks
Orange Is The New Black - Season 5
House Of Cards - Season 5
The Flash - Season 3
Supergirl - Season 2
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Season 3
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 4
Sense8 - Season 2
Dear White People - Season 1
Legends Of Tomorrow - Season 2
The Walking Dead - Season 7
Thirteen Reasons Why - Season 1
Grace And Frankie - Season 3
Iron Fist - Season 1
Love - Season 2
Santa Clarita Diet - Season 1
A Series Of Unfortunate Events - Season 1
One Day At A Time - Season 1
Travelers - Season 1
The OA - Season 1
Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life
"Invasion!" - Arrow
Luke Cage - Season 1
Stranger Things - Season 1


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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