An overwhelming wave of 80’s nostalgia has swept over our current pop culture zeitgeist. As ruffles, scrunchies, and damaged hair are once again en vogue, it seems only natural that a slew of 80’s themed shows have made a massive impression over the past few years.
The Goldbergs, Red Oaks, & Wet Hot American Summer: The Series have all been shot out of the canon within just five years of each other, and all with a certain degree of success. Out of this slew of “80’s Nostalgia” television, one show has risen to the top of the pack. That show is of course Stranger Things. Smart, suspenseful, heartfelt – the show is perfect in every way. However, while Stranger Things is most undoubtedly the show giving 80’s babies the warmest of the warm fuzzies right now, in my own subversive opinion, it’s Netflix’s G.L.O.W. that ends up taking the cake for best new show of the 80’s in the 2010’s.
I absolutely love G.L.O.W., if you’ll let me gush for a minute. I’ve always been drawn to quirkier, character-driven fare, and over the course of its last two seasons, G.L.O.W. has proven itself the perfect outlet for audiences of those sensibilities. With dialogue that causes frequent snort-laughs, emotionally engrossing characters, and a chemistry amongst the women of the cast that basically leaps out from the screen and body-slams its audience, G.L.O.W. is that rare confection: a smart show that ends up getting to the throat by way of the heart.
Inspired by the true stories (with a fair amount of fabrication thrown in) of the stars and creators of the “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” Pro-wrestling promotion that began shooting in 1985, G.L.O.W. deserves a special place amongst the current wave of 80’s Nostalgia Shows for, if nothing else, being the first show to handle the themes and issues of the decade with an integrity that reaches beyond the campy, gimmick-laden, and tongue-in-cheek. Isn’t it the ultimate irony that the Sci-fi Horror of Stranger Things ends up giving us a warmer glow than the decidedly darker screwball comedy of G.L.O.W.? G.L.O.W. for the last two years, has been consistently unafraid to give us more than a glimpse of the dark underbelly of 1980’s Los Angeles, the women who were fighting for autonomy, and the sleazy men who ran the show. It’s no coincidence that G.L.O.W.’s popularity exploded in the era of #MeToo, but G.L.O.W. remains remarkable for being both a touchstone of the movement’s social footprint, while also transcending it as great entertainment for the ages.
Season Three of Netflix’s hit comedy drops this Friday, and by all accounts, it appears that the series has hit a graceful stride, with Allison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Marc Maron, and the rest of the cast returning and production of the series within the series moving to Las Vegas, (Nerds will be thrilled with this little historical easter egg. The real G.L.O.W. moved headquarters from L.A. to Las Vegas in 1987) Joining the cast this season is Academy Award winner Geena Davis, who’s slated to play the former showgirl-turned-entrepreneur who owns the hotel where the Las Vegas G.L.O.W. promotion is being housed. The star of Thelma and Louise, A League of Their Own, and The Long Kiss Goodnight, the athletic actress was one of only a handful of genuinely bankable female action stars throughout the 80’s and 90’s and she feels like the perfect addition to a show about strong women navigating a world that was entirely dominated by men.
It was long overdue that our current pop culture started examining the 1980’s under a microscope and much kudos is due to G.L.O.W. for achieving just that. We’ve seen sitcoms and dramas taking place in the 80’s yes, but G.L.O.W. consistently goes in for a deeper dive, closely examining the issues women were dealing with at this time. What makes the show really remarkable, from a feminist standpoint (and I understand I am saying this as a male) is that it really goes a long way in revealing how much of an identity crisis professional women had at that time, acting under specific professional personas, then dealing with a frustrating lack of autonomy under their real names.
What can we expect from Season 3? Said co-creator Liz Flahive: “The stakes are going to be higher. Their show has been dropped from morning television. The move to Vegas is about survival.” The shift from L.A. to Vegas will be more than a little jarring for the principal cast, and the first part of the season promises to explore this in humorous detail.
You can see from the trailer, released by Netflix last week, that everything seems to be taking a step-up: The relationships run deeper, the women are growing closer, the obstacles become bigger, and on top of it all, the season promises a degree of Las Vegas flash we didn’t get from the grungy Los Angeles gymnasiums of the first two seasons. Ultimately it's the relationships between the characters that keep bringing us back. This is what the show is really about, and undoubtedly Netflix has truly mastered a particular brand of hilarious and intelligent relationship driven comedy that still seems to be balked at far too often by mainstream networks.
Ryan is a Film and Pop Culture/Content Contributor at Kowala Media. A free thinker and free-wheeler born and raised in the dirrrty south. Ryan has received his undergraduate degree from the University of Memphis. He currently works as a free-lance performer, educator, speaker, & singer in addition to teaching classes on Acting, Lyric Interpretation, Modern European History, Southern Writers, Contemporary American Literature, & American progressivism. When he's not acting or teaching or writing, he's usually trying to remember why he went into the Kitchen - or doing everything in his power to keep up with his 4 and 7 year old daughters.