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‘GLOW’ shines brightest in the main characters’ lowest moments

‘GLOW’ shines brightest in the main characters’ lowest moments
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If you’re looking for something to binge-watch when it’s too hot to venture outside this summer, you should get comfortable on the couch and watch “GLOW,” Netflix’s newest offering.

Set in Los Angeles in 1985, it’s inspired by the real-life campfest known as “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling,” so there’s plenty of colorful spandex, teased hair, and metallic lipstick...but the show doesn’t rely on camp for entertainment, which is no easy feat given the schlocky subject matter at hand.

The first episode introduces Ruth Wilder (played by Alison Brie), a struggling 20-something actress who ends up auditioning for the low-budget female wrestling series unwittingly out of sheer frustration of the acting offers she’s relegated to (one-line secretary or porn). She’s given the opportunity after showing up to another audition to try and nab the meatier “man’s” role, but her brazen move convinces the casting director to pass along a new wrestling series her way. Alison gives the show a chance against all odds because, well, why not?

Her best friend Debbie Eagen (played by Betty Gilpin) is a fellow actress going through her own struggles, as her recurring role on a soap opera is drying up amid marital problems and the birth of her first child. Things immediately get worse for both women when Debbie realizes Ruth is sleeping with her husband Mark.

After a real-life brawl in the ring over the affair, the two ladies end up starring together in “GLOW,” and the 10-episode season chronicles a crew of underdogs like Ruth and Debbie navigating their broken friendship, dealing with sexism and stereotyping at every turn, and figuring out how to turn such a ridiculous spectacle into something they can make their own.

The dramedy highlights how much has changed for women since 1985, and sadly, how much hasn’t. From a misogynistic male director named Sam (played by Marc Maron) to women being placed in boxes based on looks and appearance, the show ultimately wins because of the resilience of its characters, even when they’re not very likeable.

Ruth’s actions are pretty reprehensible, yet “GLOW” shines in the moments where she’s learning how her actions affect those closest to her, especially Debbie.

The show’s first season tackles other weighty topics, like the episode where Ruth realizes she’s pregnant and decides to have an abortion. Watching the story unfold through a 2017 lens is eye-opening, as we see her take ownership of her decision, simply saying, “It’s not the right time. Not the right baby."

Sam even has his own glimmers of humanity, accompanying Ruth to her abortion appointment, and supporting her, without judgment, despite his horrendous treatment of the women much of the time. Planned Parenthood has even praised the show’s “authentic depiction of abortion,” releasing a statement that said, “While the show takes place three decades ago, the story line remains relevant today, as politicians continue to attack women’s health and chip away at access to abortion in America.”

“GLOW” is a great springboard for a diverse group of women — and while the nods to ‘80s culture keep it fun and lighthearted, it’s the little moments among the amateur wrestlers that give it its depth and soul. The show depicts women quite literally fighting an uphill battle, doing everything they can to succeed in a world that only wants to knock them down, figuratively and literally.

After the lightning rod success of Netflix’s first female-led ensemble series, “Orange is the New Black,” it’s great to see OITNB creator Jenji Kohan, producer Tara Herrmann, and writer Carly Mensch at the helm of “GLOW” too.

“GLOW” is an easy summer watch even if you’re not a wrestling fan (perhaps especially if you’re not a wrestling fan!). It’s funny without being silly, optimistic without being sappy, and shows how fun it can be when women band together and reclaim their power...neon leg warmers and all.

"GLOW" season one is now streaming in full on Netflix.

Photo Credit: Netflix

‘Younger’ is the best show on TV you’ve never heard of

‘Younger’ is the best show on TV you’ve never heard of
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With no shortage of options on both streaming services and hundreds of cable channels, I’m going to go ahead and assume you watch a lot of TV. We all do...after all, like I’ve said before, we are in a golden age of TV, and there truly are so many great series in every genre imaginable out there right now.

But I’m here to tell you that the best show on TV right now is a surprising one. It’s called “Younger,” and it was created by Darren Star, the man behind ‘90s classics “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Melrose Place” and “Sex and the City.”

“Younger” has been on for four seasons, and it generally receives rave reviews from critics, but there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of it.

How can that be, you ask, in a world where we can get push alerts to our phones to notify us of...well, everything? It’s because “Younger” is on TV Land...and if you’re under the age of, say, 55, you probably only know TV Land for its constant “Everybody Loves Raymond” reruns.

I’ve long held that if “Younger” aired on a “cooler” network, like The CW, MTV, or Bravo, it would be unearthed instead of being the hidden gem it’s remained since it debuted in 2015.

“Younger” stars Broadway vet Sutton Foster as Liza, a 40-year-old divorced mom of a teenager who finds her life upended when her daughter goes off to college and she has the time and energy to find her true passion. She wants to get back into the insanely narrow and demanding world of publishing, but knows no one will take a mid-aged publishing assistant seriously.

So how does Liza handle this particular conundrum? Well, she lies! Liza somehow convinces the entire staff at a big NYC publishing house that she’s actually 26, fresh out of college and ready to make her mark on the literary world.

Throughout the show’s first three seasons, she makes friends with her coworkers, but things constantly get murky for her when she’s forced to live a lie, going out with her new 20-something friends, and finding love with a Brooklyn tattoo artist named Josh (played by actor and LGBT activist Nico Tortorella).

If this sounds like the most ridiculous premise for a TV show ever...well, I won’t argue with that. But given that the most popular TV series in the 2016-2017 season was a show about the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, I hope that a little surrealism won’t dissuade people from tuning into “Younger.”

Here’s the thing that astounds me with every new season of the show: each and every cast member is so likeable. Sure, it’d be easy to write Liza off as morally bankrupt, forging friendships and work relationships with multiple people under the guise of a big fat lie, but you can’t help but root for her anyway, because she’s going after her dream. Plus, Sutton Foster is so endearing, you’ll probably wish she starred in every show ever made.

The secret sauce of this show is the celebration of female friendships, so if you’re feeling a Manolo Blahnik-sized hole in your heart after “Sex and the City” ended, “Younger” will fill the void perfectly. Liza’s closest friend (and one of the only people in on her lie) is Maggie, played flawlessly by Debi Mazar. Maggie is there to help her navigate her “new young” life, and she’s also one of the best lesbian characters on TV right now. The writers do a great job portraying Maggie as a fleshed out character and not just “the lesbian sidekick” to Liza.

Liza’s friendship with her colleague, Kelsey (if you grew up in the early 2000s, you simply can’t miss Hilary Duff’s triumphant return to TV post-”Lizzie McGuire”) is equally fantastic - the two women support each other at work and in their personal lives, which isn’t something shown often enough on TV. There is no cattiness and no competition - they are each other’s biggest supporters, and it’s wonderfully refreshing.

The show is a perfect blend of drama and comedy (with A+ fashion to boot!), but you don’t have to be a “Sex and the City” fan to enjoy the humor. The writing is forward-thinking, funny, and irreverent, and it’s a show that people of all age ranges can enjoy.

And yes, since this is the man who gave us Carrie, Aiden, and Mr. Big, there is a love triangle, and “Younger” fans are fiercely torn between team Josh and team Charles, Liza’s boss, played by the dreamy Peter Hermann. It’s rare to find a show that has two “love interests” so likeable, it’s impossible to actually choose one. Liza could end up with either guy and she wins, because they’re truly good guys.

“Younger” is a glossy, glamorous sitcom with heart, and that’s why it’s so great. It’s a little bit campy, sure, but it’s also undeniably sweet and charming. It’s an easy binge-watch - you can easily get through a season in a weekend, and at 30 minutes a clip, you’ll likely be wishing each episode were an hour long (really!).

At its core, it’s a whole lot of fun, and sometimes you need that in your TV watching. Not everything has to be so serious and emotionally taxing (here’s lookin’ at you, “This Is Us”). “Younger” is like a coffee date with your best friend - it’s lighthearted, enjoyable, and downright good for the soul.

Check it out Wednesday nights at 10pm on TV Land, and catch up on old episodes through Hulu, Amazon Video, Google Play, and YouTube.

Photo credit: TV Land

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