The 70th annual Primetime Emmy Awards arrive Sept. 17, but this week I'll take a look at some of the nominees — the ones you may have overlooked. One slam-dunk winner: "GLOW," which recently launched a second season on Netflix and which also stars Oceanside native Jackie Tohn, as Melrose.
For those still wondering about "GLOW" — an Emmy nod for best comedy, and for co-star Betty Gilpin as supporting actress — let's take a moment to demystify this. It's a joyous, big-hearted romp through an '80s-era subculture of cheesy TV suffused with antediluvian values — sexist, racist, occasionally, or overtly, misogynistic ones. ("GLOW" is funny but not unserious, and the second season finds plenty of #MeToo and Time's Up tangents.)
But to love this show is to simply allow it to work its unique magic — for example, in the second season launch, that opening title sequence scene that Ruth (Alison Brie) shot at the mall, enlisting the help of a moonlighting security guard while Billy Joel's "You May Be Right" tracks. Who wouldn't love this scene? Who couldn't? Well, Sam (Marc Maron).
But I'm getting way ahead of myself: "GLOW's" about a struggling actress in ’80s-era Hollywood — Brie's Ruth Wilder — who answers a casting notice seeking only women. Washed-up director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) is looking to launch an all-female wrestling series, “GLOW,” for Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Ruth's pal and rival, Debbie Eagan (Gilpin), becomes a producer on this hunk of TV Velveeta. ("GLOW" is based on the mid-’80s syndicated hoot of the same name).
Co-creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch have avoided the easy temptation of turning this material into a running gag, or the characters into clowns. Instead, they have lives and back stories, tragedies and triumphs — mostly the former. To us, they’ve been consigned to the dark underside of an eat ’em up, spit ’em out industry. But to them, the show is a paycheck, a way out, a chance for glory or a chance for redemption. Where we see a farce, they see a wrestling version of “Fame.”
And while it may be hard to imagine Brie as a professional wrestler, even a fake one, that is one of the jokes, or the better part of one. With aspirations to “real” acting, she’s very much into “method;” Sam in the first season took to calling her Uta Hagen, the famed acting teacher, but she likes to think of herself as Alma Hitchcock to Sam's Alfred Hitchcock. (Did Ed Wood have a significant other? Just wondering here.)
“GLOW” is about female empowerment and couldn’t be otherwise, but there’s a little more going on — female relationships and the unique ties that bind, even when frayed by a patriarchy that profits from fraying them. Mostly, it's simply terrific.