Ruth Wilder is no wrestler, but she's a struggling actress searching for a great role for a woman in an age when all the best parts are for men (not too different from our own age, but shows like this are signs of progress). Her best friend Betty Eagan is no wrestler, but she's a recently fired soap star searching for something fulfilling. Sam Sylvia is no wrestler, but he's a cult schlock filmmaker who'll make a wrestling show if it means he can make his dream project. So he puts out a casting call, and Ruth shows up, and the rest is history.
GLOW should not work nearly as well as it does, given its subject matter and large cast of colorful characters, but the writing and directing are so assured that you always feel in capable hands. While every wrestler doesn't get the same amount of attention, each one quickly distinguishes herself (except the two designed to be a pair). It was hard to pick a favorite, no it wasn't, it was obvs Carmen, who comes from a wrestling family and is the cinnamon roll of the show. But I also enjoyed Melrose in her bad-girl awfulness and Rhonda (played Kate friggin' Nash) in her British dorkiness and Arthie in her South Asian dryness and...basically everyone, everyone has a thing, and you feel for their small stories, like Justine's crush on a pizza boy or Sheila's whole...deal. Even though Ruth is ostensibly the protagonist—and her conflict with Betty is a central, driving force in the season—it felt less like "her" show and more like an ensemble where she simply happened to get more focus. If that makes any sense at all. Because there's so much warmth and joy in watching these strangers bond over ten episodes and become a found family, which is my favorite thing.
I also love how much of a period piece it is! This show is totally eighties from the soundtrack and costumes to the VHS tapes and hostage situations. Unlike Stranger Things, which was replicating a specific eighties movie aesthetic, GLOW captures the period just as any other "period piece" would bring the Victorian era or the Roaring Twenties to life.
The first season tracks the early production of the show as they attempt to get it on the air, and at times, it's like the Slings and Arrows of wrestling with its behind-the-scenes shenanigans and personal issues carrying over into the ring. Ruth has the clearest arc, but all of the women are, in a sense, finding out who they are on this wrestling journey. While the main story follows a sports movie narrative (team tries hard, team faces obstacles at every turn, team is gonna lose BUT SURPRISE THEY WIN), it's a delight to watch because of the characters and all their interactions. The finale is incredibly satisfying on so many levels and sets the stage for much more wrestling mayhem in season two. And I'm sure Sam has some devilish plot twists in store!