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    Monday, June 26, 2017

    GLOW Forth and Multiply

    Netflix finally released the much-anticipated GLOW over the weekend, and needless to say, we spent a good chunk of it bingewatching the show. It's honestly not a long watch since there are only ten episodes that last anywhere between 30 and 40 minutes each. That made it much easier to sink our teeth into the series and get to know all the colorful characters while we traveled back to the late 80s. Now that we've had some time to process what we've seen, we asked some of the members of Smark Henry's Hall of Pen to share what they thought about the show.

    How did you guys find the show? Did you like it?

    Mark De Joya, Head Writer for PWR Coverage: Good but not great. I'll be honest, I wanted to love it more than I actually did. Wrestling is all about the drama, and the series just seemed to zip through all the storylines that supposedly should have had me on the edge of my seat—the pregnancy, financial problems, daddy issues, etc. The Wrestler was a small story that felt epic; GLOW was a grand story that ended up feeling small.

    Alison Brie was really lovable though.

    Enzo Tanos, Throwback Thursday Columnist: It’s not The Wrestler, and neither did I expect it to be The Wrestler. But GLOW was pretty good for what it is, which is a comedy-drama about a promotion built on ludicrous gimmicks (well, by today’s standards) played by initially-untrained women. As such, I didn’t mind the lack of drama that much. Major props too to the unexpected twists and turns as we learn more about some of the (fictional/composite character) women of GLOW; 14 women is a lot of characters for a 30-minute series, and while not all of the characters are fully-developed yet, you can tell that they’re getting there.

    Stan Sy, Editor at Large: After binging the entire series over two days, it felt very much like a movie chopped up into ten parts. I loved how there were a lot of details put in to really make you feel like you’re in the 80s with them. I also particularly enjoyed how each episode ended abruptly after something huge happened, which made you expect that there was going to be a payoff in the next scene. It was a good reflection of how life blindsides you with these huge issues, and even though you have no time to process it, you have to move on.

    Nicole Le Saux, Monday Night RAW Reviewer: I was so excited before watching because I kept hearing good reviews. The concept is great, but I have to agree with Mark that it was a little underwhelming. I love how they reminded us all of how terrible the cultural norms and all the gender roles were in the 1980s. Thankfully they’re gone! I feel like feminists who watch this show would feel so triggered.

    One thing they didn’t nail, though, was the actual wrestling part: it feels so unreal and inaccurate to me. Granted, it’s just a television series and I get that they’re also supposed to cater to a mainstream audience who don’t watch wrestling, but I feel like the whole thing’s been dumbed down too much. Nevertheless, I still find it pretty rad to introduce anything wrestling-related to the mainstream media.

    Oh, and, Mark, what are you talking about!? Alison Brie was annoying as hell!

    Ro Moran, Editor-in-Chief: It pains me to say so, but I agree with all the opinions saying the show was underwhelming. I kind of have to blame the show’s marketing, pushing it as completely about the wrestling show; it’s absolutely great when it’s talking about wrestling and all the nuances that go into writing and producing a wrestling show, but it definitely stalls when it goes into exploring the characters’ lives. You need to flesh out some sort of backstory, yes, but it goes too much into the drama that there are times I find myself wanting it to move forward already.

    Netflix pushed wrestling fans to this show, and it almost doesn’t have enough of the wrestling. Enzo brought up The Wrestler, and the good thing about that movie is it focused only on one story—Randy the Ram’s—so it has more time for the wrestling.

    Anthony Cuello, Lucha Underground Reviewer and NXTBT Columnist: It was a fun show to watch, though I wouldn’t really say it was downright amazing. It started off strong and ended fairly strong (that finale was Vince Russo levels of booking!), but there was a large dip in the middle that was just passable for me. I agree with Ro on the drama aspect, particularly because some of it was just confusing and felt like drama for the sake of drama (I’m looking at you, Justine.) Nevertheless, I’d say I enjoyed the show as a whole. Maybe it’s because I’m a huge sucker for anything 80’s themed, but I also appreciated that it was a television show about creating a wrestling show.

    Let me put it in a way that smarks can understand. This was not an Omega-Okada six star spectacle, it was a serviceable Cody Rhodes three-and-a-half-ish outing.

    In this day and age, professional wrestling rarely gets featured in television shows and series. What do you think of the way professional wrestling is portrayed on GLOW?

    Ro: If we’re talking about all the wrestling in general on the show, it doesn’t look anything like the ‘80s. The show with Steel Horse and Mr. Monopoly looked like a show from the early 2000s. The actual women’s wrestling, when the GLOW roster was training, seemed par for the course though.

    Tito Enzo: Let’s be fair to GLOW. It’s a show in its first season, so we’re mostly looking at the growing pains and the good times that always come along when you bond with a new group of friends—think freshman year at college, your first few weeks in a new job, first few rehearsals as a band, etc. I do hope to get a closer look at the deeper issues that plague wrestlers, such as injuries, backstage politics, and substance abuse, in future seasons, but for now, I have little to complain about in the first season.

    If I were to make a parallel to another Netflix show starring Alison Brie, I’d like future GLOW seasons’ portrayal of the wrestling business to get darker over time a la BoJack Horseman, while still fulfilling the “-medy” quota in the word “dramedy.”

    MDJ: Too pretty and shiny. Having watched both The Wrestler and the Netflix GLOW documentary, it's really the injuries and personal demons that grip people the hardest when the veil gets pulled back. Wrestling is a dirty, nasty, brutal drug that chews up 99% of its practitioners up and spits them out, and there really was nothing to see on this aspect.

    Stan: I agree with a lot of what MDJ and Tito Enzo mentioned, but I also have to point out that the show treated pro wrestling as an industry with respect. Mainstream media rarely gives the sport the love and respect it deserves, and a show like GLOW portrayed it as a craft that is worth taking seriously. As a wrestling fan, I can’t really ask for anything more.

    Anthony: Fair points above, but to be honest, that’s exactly what I wanted it to be The name itself, GLOW, immediately conveys something that should be about the shine and glitter of wrestling, and that’s what best describes this show. It fulfills a different portrayal of pro wrestling from what The Wrestler does, but it’s one that I think can help the industry right now.

    Nicole: There we go. My biggest concern. Wrestling looked way too “pretty” and easy on this show, like what the guys have mentioned above. I feel like this representation of professional wrestling, whether you’re from 1980 or 2017, is as stereotypical as it can get. My favorite part, really, is the backstage struggles: finding sufficient funds, a good venue, etc.—this showed that wrestling is a tough business more than it is just crazy fun and games.

    Who, for you, was the best character on the show? Who had the best gimmick (yes, those are two different things!) among the ladies?

    Nicole: Am I the only one who thinks Bash is the most lovable character on the show? Plus, I find him a little dreamy... 😍

    When the girls were all trying out costumes for the first time trying to find a gimmick that suits them, I thought that The Welfare Queen stood out the most the second she put on that fur coat. Liberty Belle is also very well played. I also loved “three favorite Americans” bit; I laughed so loud, I probably woke my family up.

    Stan: Kharma/Awesome Kong/Kia Stevens’ Tamme is my favorite character because she just steals every character she’s in. I never knew that Kia Stevens got into pro wrestling to become an actress. But after seeing her play her character so well—and making me forget that she played such an imposing figure in wrestling for so many years—I became convinced that she’s got the acting chops to get a gig after GLOW! Who knew she graduated from the Big Show School of Acting?

    Tamme’s gimmick as Welfare Queen was my favorite. I love wrestling gimmicks that also stand as sociopolitical commentary and Welfare Queen was a great satire that also made you go, “Oo nga ano,” once you realize what her character was supposed to point out.

    Ro: Alison Brie plays Ruth so well. She’s best when she’s on full Zoya the Destroya mode for me. As Stan said as well, Kong was quite the revelation on this show.

    MDJ: The Beatdown Biddies made me smile, because I literally wouldn't know what to do if an angry old lolo or lola challenged me to a fight. But I suppose the best character was that of Sam Sylvia. This was more his vehicle than anyone else's—even Ruth.

    Anthony: Sam Sylvia was great as the sleazy 80’s film director using the show as a means to an end. He’s your typical director that’s difficult to work with, has overly complicated ideas (I laughed hard at the Kuntar story), but just has that passion in him. It helped that they painted him as a person with actual problems, rather than just the guy running things. Seeing Sylvia open up and show vulnerability to Ruth about his various relationships was nice.

    The Welfare Queen gimmick was a witty piece of political commentary, but I felt as if it was more of Awesome Kong’s delivery that really sold that character. Then again, I can’t really say that the white supremacist KKK gimmicks were my favorite (though I laughed out loud at that scene), so Welfare Queen it is.

    Tito Enzo: Also going with Sam Sylvia as my favorite character. He’s a cantankerous B-movie director whose films are a joke. He demeans the women (and women in general), admits that he’s not the type to apologize or admit he’s wrong, and knows he’s a hard person to work with. And he couldn’t give a fuck about how wrestling should work. But beneath that unpleasant exterior, you can tell there’s a compassionate AND passionate person inside. Still, we’ve got to give major credit to the actor—Marc Maron does an excellent job playing GLOW’s least-likable character in-universe.

    Talking about the women’s gimmicks, I think Awesome Kong was, well, awesome as Welfare Queen. Great heel work, and even better references to the U.S. political climate in the ‘80s through her gimmick. And I had a good laugh when Liberty Belle gave a shout-out to her three favorite Americans— Ronald Reagan, Larry Bird… and Jesus Christ.

    What moment made you mark out the most?

    Stan: Every time a familiar face from the real world of pro wrestling appeared, like Johnny Mundo, Alex Riley, Joey Ryan, Brodus Clay, or Carlito—and of course, Kharma/Awesome Kong—I marked out… and paused the episode to explain to my girlfriend who these people were.

    Anthony: There’s a hilarious conversation Sam Sylvia and Rhonda (the British girl) have about having a gimmick based entirely on hugging someone, which had me laughing because that’s actually happening right now. Debbie Eagan getting it was great, though, because it was a moment I’m sure so many wrestling fans could relate to—whether it was for themselves or for someone they’ve been trying to get into wrestling.

    MDJ: That moment when Debbie finally, finally “got it.” I'm not gonna lie, at that moment, I glanced over to my wife and crossed my fingers, hoping that would be a turning point for her too in how she views wrestling.

    Tito Enzo: I’d have to say the moment when Debbie finally became a wrestling fan after adamantly writing it off as stupid at the start. Of course, the epiphany didn’t sink in until she was cornered and had no choice but to enter a storyline rivalry with real-life frenemy Ruth, but it was inspiring to see her finally put in some work into becoming a competent wrestler.

    Ro: Same with Stan; I loved all the wrestler cameos. There was a real effort to assimilate the real American wrestling scene into this show, and I appreciated that. It would’ve been real easy to ignore real-life pro wrestling and pretend it doesn’t quite exist, leave the cast of the show to go forward with it, but they didn’t.

    Nicole: I agree with Stan and Ro! Seeing all those familiar faces was awesome. I hope they add more wrestler cameos in the next seasons. Another one would be the obvious Bayley bit that Anthony mentioned (they definitely knew real wrestling fans would be tuned in and gave us that nice treat), as well as the scene at the fancy fundraiser where Ruth was talking about how wrestling “saved her.” Ugh, it got me teary-eyed.

    Who had your favorite cameo?

    Tito Enzo: Mr. Monopoly. Joey Ryan playing the hell out of his character, as usual. But I would’ve liked to see more of Johnny Mundo/John Morrison.

    Christopher Daniels, in what seemed to be an ‘80s version of the Curry Man character. (Also, despite the Best Moonsault Ever being completely anachronistic.) And Johnny Mundo, who they got rid of waaay too early.

    MDJ: Mr. Monopoly was my personal favorite. Always fun to see a hustler like Joey Ryan get some well-deserved shine.

    Not really a cameo but a cool blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Easter egg I enjoyed: Carlito playing with an apple on the porch.

    Stan: Steel. Horse. Alex Riley looked really great in his role, and when he hit that spinebuster on Joey Ryan, he looked like an absolute star. He was also a lucky SOB to have that makeout scene with Betty Gilpin afterward.

    Anthony: Alex Riley gets points for actually cleaning up and not looking like the hobo he did in his last WWE run, but Johnny Mundo as Salty “The Sack” Johnson was the one that I popped for. There was no mention of it at all leading up to the show, and seeing Mundo just step into the ring and introduce himself as their trainer was a nice treat for wrestling fans.

    Nicole: Uhm, do I really have to choose just one? I feel like all cameos woke me up while I was watching the series in the wee hours of the morning. But if I really had to choose, it would probably be Johnny Mundo’s. It was the first one, and it got me excited to see who else they had on the show.

    What three words best describe GLOW?

    MDJ: Sincere, unambitious, underwhelming.

    Tito Enzo: Fun despite imperfections.

    Stan: Pretty spunky ride

    Ro: Needs more wrestling.

    Nicole: Sugar-coated, interesting, pretty.

    Anthony: Amay-yay-yayzing. (That counts as three words, right?)

    Screenshots from GLOW on Netflix
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    Item Reviewed: GLOW Forth and Multiply Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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