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Series / GLOW (2017)

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"Bash Howard Productions and Patio Town Inc. proudly present, from the Hayworth Hotel in Los Angeles, California, it's G.L.O.W., the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling!"
Bash (announcing)

GLOW is a dramedy from Netflix which tells a fictionalized version of the characters and gimmicks of the syndicated all-women wrestling promotion ''Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling" or GLOW, which ran from 1986 to 1990.

The show stars Alison Brie as Ruth Wilder, a broke, down-on-her-luck aspiring actor in 1980s LA, who finds one last chance for stardom when she's thrust into the glitter and spandex world of women's wrestling.

Alongside other colorful newcomers, Ruth has to deal with estranged friend Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin), a former soap opera actor who left show business to have a baby, only to be sucked back into work when her picture-perfect life is not what it seems.

The first season premiered on June 23, 2017; the trailer can be found here. After a successful second season and third season, it was renewed for a fourth and final season on September 20, 2019. However, on October 5, 2020, it was revealed that Netflix had canceled production on this final season due to the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, ending the series at three seasons.

IDW published a GLOW comicbook series in 2019 and followed with GLOW vs the Babyface in 2019 to 2020.

Beware of unmarked Season 1 and 2 spoilers.

GLOW contains examples of the following tropes:

  • The '80s: The show is set smack in the middle of the decade, and everything from the wardrobe to the hairstyles faithfully reflects that.
  • '80s Hair: The show takes great care to replicate the hairstyles of the decade, in all their gravity-defying glory.
  • Aborted Arc: Season 3 introduces and drops multiple plot threads cold. These include Debbie's eating disorder and her desire to quit working to be a parent to her child (although you can argue that the inner turmoil that caused this is resolved with her inclusion in purchasing a TV network), Tamme's injury transitioning her to a manager is never seen, and while it's obviously intended to be followed up on in a future season 4 and beyond, Sam and Ruth's plotline in Season 3 ends with a fight over Ruth being rejected for a part in Justine's movie, without even attempting a reconciliation.
  • The Alcoholic: Sam is a heavy drinker. In season 3, his unhealthy lifestyle catches up with him when he has a heart attack. In spite of the doctor's advice to get healthy, he goes immediately back to drinking, partly because he doesn't want to admit his health problems to other people.
  • Armored Closet Gay: After two seasons hinting at it, Bash is revealed to be gay in season 3. He's wracked by shame and refuses to admit it to himself. His overbearing and conservative mother is likely one of the reasons, and fear of AIDS is another.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Bash saves his voice by whispering during the day, but whispering is actually harder on your voice than regular speech. This might, however, simply be the result of Bash's ignorance.
  • Ass Pull: Invoked as part of the wrestling matches.
    • In-Universe, when GLOW's first episode is almost finished with a crowd-satisfying victory for the All-American Face, Sam injects a new epilogue in which the Welfare Queen comes out of nowhere to steal her crown. Ruth and Debbie protest, but Sam insists that the show needed a cliffhanger to drive the next's episode's plot.
    • In the Season 2 finale, Carmen is booked to win the title in the battle royal, but Sam calls an audible and asks a still-recovering Ruth to take her headphones off and eliminate all three women still in the ring – Debbie, Carmen, and Sheila – by kicking them as she descends into the ring via zipline.
  • Atomic F-Bomb: The normally sunny and friendly Carmen lets out one in episode 6 of Season 2, telling everyone to "shut the fuck up" as the girls argue about non-wrestling related matters when they should be training their butts off to hopefully convince the TV execs to move them back to a better time slot.
  • Author Tract: In-Universe, Sam's first script for the show, a post-apocalyptic dystopia, is a thinly veiled misogynistic rant against women's lib, full of man-eating lesbians and a villain named Kuntar.
  • Awesome Mc Cool Name: Cherry Bang. A casting agent comments that it couldn't possibly be her real name. Cherry neither confirms nor denies.
  • Bad "Bad Acting":
    • Ruth's attempts to treat the project like a regular acting job result in her giving a terrible first audition. Even after she researches pro wrestling a bit more it still takes her a while to nail exactly what she should be aiming for.
    • Cherry Bang's attempt at starring in a cop show goes very badly. Even when she can remember her lines, her delivery is extremely bad. Sam eventually lays it out for her: She is a stuntwoman who has no training or experience with standard line delivery. If she starts taking classes and working at it now she can eventually become an actor, but as it is now she simply doesn't have the skills. She ends up returning to wrestling because of it.
    • Most of the GLOW girls are not trained actors, so their performances are often either wooden or hammy, though hammy is basically what the show is going for. Reggie in particular has no stage charisma and obviously got the job purely on physicality.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In-Universe, the GLOW cable TV series ends with Zoya winning the bouquet and mocking the audience.
  • Banned in China: Invoked. Sam is very proud of the fact that one of his movies has been banned in 49 states.
  • The Beard:
    • Rhonda marries Bash for a green card, but he has the ulterior motive of needing a wife to prove to the world that he's straight.
    • A crossdressing gay performer at the casino is apparently married with a son, even though he's an active member of the Las Vegas LGBT community.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: When Sam first meets Ruth, he tells her openly that he can't decide whether she's attractive. They share a close but combative working relationship over two seasons, until season 3, when Sam springs on her, "You know I'm in love with you, right?"
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: The wrestler Steel Horse is apparently very well endowed and very good in bed, if Debbie's condition the next morning is anything to go by. Downplayed as while she clearly enjoyed it, it reminded her of the difference between one night of fun, and a lover who knows you intimately. Debbie says that Steel Horse was so big that it might hurt the next time she pees.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Both Season 2 and 3 ends with these.
    • Season 2 ends with GLOW getting screwed over by the network just because Ruth refused to have sex with its boss, not only that but the network has the rights to the GLOW characters, thus making a jump to another network legally impossible in its current form, Justine is taken away from Sam by her mother and Debbie realizes the good man she loss with Mark and how vindictive she is. However, they are invited to do live-shows in Las Vegas in the Fan Tan Hotel & Casino with good pay with both Ruth and Debbie taking baby steps towards mending their friendship.
    • Season 3 ends with the Rhapsody Show closing down after Bash is convinced by Debbie to take out his investment in the Fan Tan to buy a struggling Network after their contract with the casino expires, while Bash now struggles with his repressed homosexual impulses and desire to stay married with Rhonda, who's now doubting their marriage. After the live-show ends and everybody starts returning to their homes or going on a vacation, Debbie, in a act of kindness and respect, offers Ruth the chance to direct a planned reboot of GLOW with new characters but Ruth angrily refuses because of her desire to be a respected actor and not wanting to be in indebted to her, possibly straining their relationship again, while Carmen decides to leave GLOW to go on a wrestling tour with her older brother Kurt. However, the other girls now have a better understanding and respect for each other with Sheila abandoning her She-Wolf persona and taking an active interest in acting and theatre, Cherry rekindling her relationship with her husband Keith and Sam (who's having health problems) not only having a better relationship with Justine but actually helping her getting her first screenplay turn into a movie.
  • Bizarro Episode: In-Universe for "Freaky Tuesday" on GLOW's final casion show. Stemming from Tammé trying to play a biddy to cope with her back pain and exacerbated by Debbie spiting Bash's authority, the girls (and even Sam) switch personas for their final show (and then some)
  • Blaxploitation: Cherry's acting career mostly comprises of stunt work and small roles in these types of films. Her character Junkchain is themed on blaxploitation Action Girl characters like Coffy.
  • Brick Joke: Early in season 1, Sam describes the plot of a movie he has been trying to get made for over a decade, and it sounds like a piece of shit exploitation B-Movie. It's about a horny teen who travels back in time to the 1950s, and has his mother try to have sex with him. In the penultimate episode of the season, he describes the plot to the band at a party...and they all tell him they've already seen it, as it's almost the same story as Back to the Future, which had just premiered that week.
  • Campfire Character Exploration: In the Season 3 episode "Outward Bound" several of the girls have a heart-to-heart around a campfire in Red Rock Canyon.
  • Captain Obvious: Sam's pathetic attempts at announcing the show's trial run amount to little more than awkwardly stating what's happening. When the KKK characters deliver some big hits, he flatly states, "It doesn't look good for the black girls..."
  • Casting Couch: A meeting between Ruth and GLOW's cable channel executive turns into this, causing her to flee at the first opportunity. Tom Grant punishes the show by putting in a dead time slot. And when Sam finds out about it, he goes out and vandalizes Grant's car with a tire iron.
  • Casting Gag:
    • Chavo Guerrero Jr. being cast, as one of his uncles, Mando, actually served as a trainer for the actual GLOW promotion (ironically, Chavo was also a behind-the-scenes wrestling trainer for the show before he was cast in front of the camera).
    • Mark (Rich Sommer) and Ruth (Alison Brie) co-starred together on Mad Men as Harry Crane and Trudy Campbell. Unlike on GLOW they never had any sort of romantic relationship during the run of the show; in fact, they were rarely even in scenes together.
    • Tammé (Kia Stevens) mentions that she used to work on Family Feud. Stevens' mother worked on the show.
  • Cat Fight:
    • The central concept of the GLOW wrestling show, selling females fighting for titillation's sake.
    • The beatdown Debbie gives to Ruth in episode 1 is a real one of these, which gives Sam inspiration for the main event.
  • Cliffhanger: Sam injects one into the inaugural episode of GLOW to drive the plot of future episodes, saying, "The money is in the chase."
  • The Comically Serious: During GLOW's trial performance, the camera often cuts to a coven leader Sheila met who got dragged to the show, along with the rest of his coven. His stoic and effete reactions to show's more bizarre aspects are quite funny.
  • Complexity Addiction: Sam's initial draft of the show's story involves a Post Apocalyptic setting and lots of complicated backstory. It's an exhaustive process for the girls to talk him out of it and settle for simple characters and storylines that are easily relatable and understandable.
  • Country Matters: Sam thinks he can sneak past the censors by naming the villain in his initial draft of the show "Kuntar."
  • Cringe Comedy: In the first scene of Season 3, Zoya insults the crew of the Challenger during a Kayfabe interview, while we all know what's about to happen.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: invoked
    • Invoked by Sam when he is called on the offensively stereotypical personas assigned to the women. He claims that it is going to be so over the top that the audience will find itself seriously thinking about their prejudices. The women think it is bullshit.
    • Invoked by Cherry and Tammé when they get the team otherwise known as the Beatdown Biddies (two young women playing kayfabe old ladies) to dress up like Klansmen.
  • Dance of Romance: A couple in season 2:
    • Arthie and Yolanda film a dance sequence for the show and end up developing feelings for each other.
    • A subverted example with Sam and Ruth at the Winter Formal. They slow-dance together and Sam moves in for a kiss, causing Ruth to run off and confess her feelings to Russell.
  • Dance-Off: Junkchain and Zoya get into one of these in season 2 due to Yolanda, Junkchain's new actor, being a skilled dancer with no wrestling experience.
  • Dead Partner: Early in season 2, Cherry somehow lands the lead role on a police drama despite having no acting experience. She's hopelessly in over her head and the producers don't know what the problem is. Cherry's husband goes to Sam and begs him to come help get Cherry released from the show before she gets fired and virtually blacklisted. The show's producers are more than happy to release Cherry, but need a way to explain it in-story. Sam suggests that they simply have Cherry get killed early in the pilot and use that as the other lead's motivation.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The show faithfully presents the fact that a lot of the gimmicks and characters in wrestling in The '80s were based on stereotypes that would be considered incredibly racist by modern standards, but were considered acceptable to mock at the time. The show examines how the wrestlers really dislike perpetuating these stereotypes.
  • Directed by Cast Member: In-Universe, Ruth ghost-directs the GLOW pilot because Sam is busy dealing with learning that Justine is his illegitimate daughter. In the season 2 premiere, Ruth takes the cast to a shopping mall to film an intro sequence, though this gets her in trouble with Sam for going behind his back, and Reggie fired when she speaks up in defense of Ruthnote . The other girls say they actually like it better when Ruth is directing them instead of Sam. In the season 2 finale, Sam officially appoints her as his co-director, though this is partially because she's still recovering from her leg injury.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named:
    • In season 2, it's never explicitly stated that Florian died of AIDS, but given that the show's set in 1985, when HIV/AIDS was highly stigmatized and seen as a death sentence, it's not hard to extrapolate based on the fact that he frequented gay clubs, the hospital says his cause of death was "technically pneumonia", it's mentioned that most funeral homes won't take his body, and Bash has a team come sanitize his entire house after he hears the news.
    • In season 3, the characters participate in a gala at the Libertine that is meant to raise money for AIDS research. It is interrupted by arson and when they evacuate they see hate messages sprayed on the walls.
    • When Bash is having a nervous breakdown over his inability to suppress his homosexuality, he states that he does not want to die, presumably of AIDS.
  • Dramatic Irony: Season 3 opens with Ruth and Debbie riffing in-character on live television as they watch the Challenger liftoff. Uh oh...
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Between the first and second episode, Salty is Put on a Bus, and Bash (who had not been mentioned before) is given a Third Episode Introduction.
    • The first episode makes Sam's involvement in GLOW seem more reluctant and desperate than in later episodes, which reveal that he conceived of it with a millionaire partner who pays all the bills and promises to finance his next movie as well.
  • Enter Stage Window: This is how Mark gets into Ruth's apartment unseen to have sex with her. He even lampshades how hard it is to climb up a trellis.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Debbie had one when she finally realizes that pro wrestling is basically a Soap Opera and is finally able to connect with it.
  • Fanservice: As if featuring Alison Brie topless wasn't enough, the women spend a considerable amount of time in very tight outfits which show off their curves.
  • Fake Nationality: There are a few in-universe examples as the girls' stereotype wrestling characters are based on their looks:
    • Ruth Wilder (American) plays Zoya the Destroyer (Russian)
    • Arthie Premkumar (Indian) plays Beirut the Mad Bomber (Lebanese)
    • Jennie Chey (Cambodian) plays Fortune Cookie (Chinese)
    • Reggie Walsh (American) plays Vicky the Viking (generic Scandinavian)
  • Fake-Out Opening: The pilot starts with Ruth delivering an impassioned monologue as an tough, iron-willed heiress. It turns out that she's auditioning for an acting role... and is actually reading the wrong part. She's actually a Starving Artist.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The plot of the movie Sam has spent a decade trying to get made foreshadows the fact that Justine is his daughter, as it is about a guy who travels in time and has his mother try to have sex with him, which is what happens between Sam and Justine just gender flipped and without the time travel.
    • Bash's sexuality is hinted at for a while before directly addressed. He invites all the GLOW girls to a party and never flirts with any of them, lives with a close male friend, and is a huge fan of male wrestling, with pictures of muscular men papering his bedroom walls.
  • Generation Xerox: Both Sam and Justine are just as equally cynical, abrasive, and distrustful of mainstream society.
  • Gilligan Cut: In season 2 episode 9 Bash assures Debbie the next episode will be great because Carmen is working on it. The next scene is Carmen smoking a bong.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted with Ruth. in the first season Ruth learns that she's pregnant with Mark's child. Seeing as her career as a wrestler would be sidelined as well as the extra scorn she would receive since everyone knows of her affair with Mark, Ruth decides that the cons outweigh the pros and goes through with getting an abortion after Sam drives her to the clinic in secret.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Debbie, midway through Season 2. In episode 5, she shows callous disregard for the fact that Ruth nearly got raped by a sleazy TV executive, instead lashing out at her for not welcoming the exec's sexual advances, because that could have prevented GLOW from being moved to a dead time slot. The next episode, she snorts a line of coke before her match with Ruth, and appears to shoot on her during the finish, breaking her ankle and taking her out of action for at least two months, per doctor's orders. While she claims it was all an accident, especially when both women loudly argue in Ruth's hospital room in episode 7, she quietly calls a truce shortly after the argument, though her friendship with Ruth is still far from being repaired.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Billy Offal, the punk pizza boy, turns out to be quite the cinema snob.
    • Subverted by Sheila when she reveals that she can play the piano. She can only peck out one dreary song. She's later proves to be a good typist, if that's something.
    • "Tex" is surprisingly open-minded about homosexuality for a middle-aged businessman from Wyoming. Turns out that he had a gay nephew who died of AIDS.
  • Hollywood Homely: Mentioned In-Universe a couple of times and Played for Laughs.
    • Sam asks Ruth to her face whether she's attractive, saying that sometimes she is and sometimes not at all. Ruth is played by Fanservice girl Alison Brie. In a later episode, Bash clarifies that everyone else would think she's attractive. Sam is just weird.
    • In the "Makeover" music video, Sam as a nightclub bouncer rejects Machu Picchu, Melrose, Brittanica, the Toxic Twins, Sheila, Fortune Cookie, and Beirut on the basis that "their looks need work".
  • I'll Pretend I Didn't Hear That: When Sam discovers that Tom Grant sexually harassed Ruth, he finds Tom's car and shatters the windshield with a tire iron. On his way out, Sam sees Tom's underling Glen Klitnick staring at him.
    Sam: Glen.
    Glen: You know, [Tom] pisses off a lot of people. Could've been anyone.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Gregory's nephew demands lots of vodka in order to go through with his bris.
  • I Resemble That Remark!:
    Rhonda: You're so bloody paranoid all the time.
    Sam: I'm not paranoid! Who told you that?
  • Insult Backfire: Realizing an arrogant producer isn't going to give them a chance, Justine snaps how "your last movie sucked!" The guy smugly points out his last movie was the Oscar-winning hit Out of Africa.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: Fortune Cookie is a mish-mash of Japanese and Chinese references. The wrestler portraying her is Cambodian.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Debbie is getting railed in missionary sex by Vegas hotel valet Chet in her room when he gets distracted by loud disco music. She tells him to ignore it, then he starts doing sex moves to the music which makes Debbie reply " Don't Fuck me to the Song!". Before she finally stops him.
  • It's Been Done: Sam has bad luck in getting beaten to the punch on his ideas.
    • Hinted at earlier - Sam gives the girls a sample script that closely resembles the plot of Harlan Ellison's A Boy and His Dog.
    • The film Mothers and Lovers that he's been working on for a decade: is about a teenager who goes back in time and meets his mom when she was younger, and she spends the movie getting the hots for him. The party guests all crack about how that's the plot for a brand-new film called... Back to the Future.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Sam Sylvia. He'll be the first person to tell you that he's hard to work with. He's a habitual coke user and womanizer who says cruel things to the women, demands complete control over his product despite not caring to know about the finer points of wrestling, and isn't a fan of apologies or admitting his faults. Hell, he even hates babies, and thinks that they're boring because they're obviously too young to party. And while he tries not to show it, he does have a tender side, such as the time he drove Ruth to the hospital for her abortion, and didn't fire Justine despite the fact she stole his video camera and tried to frame Rhonda up for it. He also stands up for Carmen when her wrestling family comes to take her away from GLOW, even taking a backhand to the face without being deterred until Carmen herself goes willing with her family to avoid more violence.
    • Bash's mother. She treats the entire enterprise as little better than a scam, but once she meets the girls and hears them speak, she decides to help them with a venue for the show. In season three, she's prepared to see Rhonda as a gold-digging immigrant, but when Rhonda confides in her about Bash's inability to manage money and how Rhonda has tried to make him more self-reliant, Birdie appreciates her honesty and has her lawyer release Bash's inheritance.
  • Jewish American Princess: Melrose is revealed early on to come from a pampered, upper-class background in spite of her party-girl persona. She's also Jewish.
  • Kavorka Man: Mark has managed to snag Debbie, Ruth and his own secretary in spite of being a husky and unimpressive specimen.
  • Kayfabe: The show takes a closer look at how this works, as the contrast between the wrestlers' lives and personalities and the characters they play is made evident.
    Ruth: Are you hiring actors to play wrestlers or are we the wrestlers?
    Sam Silvia: Yes.
  • Kick the Dog: Birdie Howard's first few lines include an antisemitic Greedy Jew remark, letting the audience take Bash's side against her even though Jerkass Has a Point about his uncontrolled spending.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Early in season 2, Cherry leaves the wrestling show when she gets the starring role in a new police show. However, she lacks the training and experience of a professional actor and the production quickly gets in trouble. She asks Sam for help and he honestly tells her that she is not competent enough to do the job. In a few years she might acquire the necessary skills but right now her only choice is to find a way to walk away from the show before she gets fired and gets a bad reputation in the industry. Sam finds a way for everyone involved to save face and Cherry returns to wrestling.
  • Large Ham: All of the GLOW wrestlers settle into this delivery style, given the hamminess of the material they're working with.
  • Leotard of Power: The most common attire of the wrestlers. It is The 80s, after all.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Justine turns out to be a daughter Sam never knew he had.
  • Male Gaze: Played with. The scenes with actual nudity and sex are shot very matter of factly and not for titillation. The scenes when the girls are in the ring fully dressed is another matter entirely.
  • Manchild: Bash was raised in an extremely wealthy family, and he remains chipper, naive, friendly and childish as an adult. In season 3, Bash grows out of it and becomes more ruthless in his business dealings and harsher on people who run afoul of his Armored Closet Gay.
  • Meaningful Name: Billy Offal's surname (likely an assumed name) means "garbage" and is also a homophone for "awful," both of which match his punk aesthetic. The name is also pretty similar to Billy Idol
  • Mistaken for Prostitute:
    • Gregory, the manager of the motel where the girls live during the duration of their training, initially thinks they're all prostitutes. Even after Ruth explains the situation to him, he still has his doubts.
    • When Melrose is at a bar in Vegas, she is approached by a handsome man who thinks she is a prostitute. Far from being offended, Melrose is delighted at the thought that she will get to sleep with this very handsome man and also get paid for it. It turns out that he is a prostitute, and had mistaken her for a client. After they have sex they argue over which of them has to pay.
  • Mood Whiplash: The opening scene of season 3 as the girls are shown living it up in a posh Vegas hotel, Betty and Ruth doing an interview in character...and then they see the space shuttle Challenger blowing up on TV.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Bash describes Ruth as a "farmer's daughter type." Farmer's Daughter was a character in the real GLOW.
    • Rhonda's Britannica character plans for having a horse to ride on is a reference to the very British Godiva in the real show.
    • Stacy and Dawn changing their characters to mutants because playing old ladies was hurting their self-esteem is by far the closest thing on the show to something the real GLOW did.
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: In the scripted rivalry of Zoya vs. Liberty Belle, the face is the heel and the heel is the face. Liberty Belle is supposed to the be fan favorite of the scripted rivalry, but Debbie is one of the biggest antagonists off the set. Meanwhile, Zoya plays on peoples' prejudices against communism, whereas Ruth is a very sweet and loving girl.
    • Inverted with Welfare Queen. She's supposed to be a money-grubbing Lower-Class Lout who showcases the worst stereotypes surrounding plus-sized African American women but Tamme is a humble and generous woman who acts as a Team Mom to the younger girls, a mentor and confidant to Debbie (a younger mother of a son), and has worked hard for most of her adulthood to help raise a son on a Stanford scholarship.
    • Also inverted with Fortune Cookie and Beirut the Mad Bomber, the heels who play against fears surrounding communism and radical Islamic terrorism and the ignorance against Asian culture and Middle Eastern culture. Jenny and Arthie are nice girls who are well assimilated into American culture with Immigrant Parents.
  • N-Word Privileges: When Tamme is called a "big black girl", she responds with an angry "The fuck you say!?"
  • No Bisexuals: When Arthie and Bash question their sexuality, the idea that either (or both) might be bisexual isn't even broached. Arthie's initial reluctance to completely identify as a lesbian makes Yolanda break up with her on the spot and treat it as cowardice.
  • No Budget: In-Universe, after Bash's mother freezes his trust fund because of all the money he had spent on GLOW, the money dries up completely and the girls have to make everything themselves and raise money to complete the taping of the pilot. Ruth convinces the girls to go along with this, recounting how she did a production of Peter Pan where she had to have visible stagehands carry her around the stage due to a lack of budget for wires.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Although the show is based on a real-life wrestling promotion, all the characters are fictional, oftentimes based on the people behind the real GLOW. Carmen/Machu Picchu, for example, is an obvious takeoff on Emily Dole, a.k.a. Mount Fiji, while the admittedly difficult-to-work-with director Sam Sylvia is based on real-life B-movie director Matt Cimber. There are, however, a few Race Lift cases here and there, such as the Caucasian John Morrison playing the equivalent of the Mexican-American Mando Guerrero as the girls' trainer.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Invoked by Ruth during the first televised match when Zoya double crosses Fortune Cookie and tries to seize the championship for herself.
  • No-Sell: A variation occurs when Sam gets backhanded by Carmen's hulking brother. Sam obviously feels it as much as anyone, but reacts with utter indifference and doesn't back down an inch, which causes the brother to back down.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: Largely subverted; most of the women on the show are doing their own wrestling (assisted by editing), but one very clear example is Ruth's moonsault in "A Very GLOW Christmas."
  • Off the Rails: In-universe and justified, in Season 2. After Debbie breaks Ruth's ankle in a coke-fueled moment and Ruth being unable to walk, Sam suggests to the girls to do a lot of crazy shit as much as possible because of their 2AM time slot. "The Good Twin" showcases exactly how much off the rails the show has become.
  • Operation: Jealousy: Rhonda's sex life with Bash has hit the skids, so she hires a gigolo to pose as a handyman so she can flirt with him and make Bash jealous. Things don't go as planned: They end up having a three-way.
  • The Other Darrin: In-universe, when Cherry temporarily leaves GLOW to star in a cop drama. Her Junkchain character is given to Yolanda, a newcomer whom Sam had recruited from a strip club.
  • Performance Anxiety: Carmen gets this big time on the first live show GLOW does, unable to get into the ring before having a panic attack.
  • Periphery Demographic: Invoked In-Universe when Sam pitches GLOW as "Porn you can watch with your kids" to a TV executive upon learning they're getting a Saturday morning slot. Truth in Television as GLOW was intended for all ages unlike some of the spiritual successors that followed like WOW and Wrestleicious.
  • The Peter Principle: Cherry Bang is a very good stuntwoman and has a really good stage presence, so she is offered a leading role on a new cop show. However, she is not a trained actor and quickly runs into trouble. She has problems with her lines and does not interact well with other actors on camera. In the end, Sam gets her out of her contract before she is fired and her reputation in the industry ruined.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • The rich but nice kid Bash shows that he's a good guy in his first few episodes by seeing the best in his wrestlers. He brushes off Sam's dislike for Ruth, saying she's like a girl next door, and changes Carmen from a heel to a face after noticing her sweet personality.
    • When Ruth reveals that the show is doomed because she ran out on a Casting Couch moment with the channel's executive, Sam becomes outraged, not at Ruth for screwing the show, but at the executive for putting her through that. This is in contrast to Debbie, who criticized Ruth for not playing the game.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The show has its moments, but the Season 3 premiere ends with an elevator full of women in 80s eveningwear, including Melrose's Cleopatra-styled outfit in midnight blue.
  • Pink Means Feminine: GLOW has a pink motif, because it's women's wrestling.
  • Plaster Cast Doodling: After Ruth is injured, Bash signs her cast as "A Bash Howard production" and Sam first puts his initials "SS" but as Ruth mentions the Unfortunate Implications (it's commonly associated with the Nazi Schutzstaffel), he adds a small "F" for "Francis" between the letters.
  • Poke the Poodle: Ruth's proposed heel character Aunty Christ is a mean old lady who gives out raisins on Halloween.
  • Politically Correct History: While the show portrays the rampant homophobia of The '80s, all of our sympathetic characters are completely supportive and even blase about homosexuality. No one has any issues at all with Yolanda's and Arthie's sexuality in season 2, Carmen and Rhonda are unperturbed by finding themselves in a gay bar, and the whole cast goes to an underground AIDS charity ball filled with LGBT attendees. Everyone who discovers Bash's Armored Closet Gay situation is supportive of his plight.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Sam Sylvia indulges in a number of negative stereotypes to create his characters, such as "Beirut the Terrorist" and "Welfare Queen," which cause the show's minority cast members some embarrassment. He claims he is using them to make a point about society's assumptions. Whether this is true or if he's just willfully catering to the prejudices of his 1980s audience to make a buck is unclear. He mentions he's a former civil rights activist, but it's also implied that he just joined to get laid. Keith says that Sam is "more sexist than racist," which is not a ringing endorsement. In season 2, he betrays some Jerk with a Heart of Gold moments by being totally unfazed by Yolanda and Arthie getting together and doesn't want to see Yolanda perform a striptease act since he claims to “see her as a person now” and even pays her to keep her top on until he leaves the club.
  • Present-Day Past: Several people refer to "Cupcake" as a "stalker," though this term wasn't coined until the early 1990s.
  • Produced by Cast Member: In-universe, Debbie becomes a producer of GLOW while still playing Liberty Belle.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Salty, the professional wrestler and trainer, is fired between the pilot and second episode, with Sam saying only that he "didn't work out." A large part of the first season is the girls figuring out what wrestling is for themselves and coming up with their own moves.
    • Florian disappears between seasons one and two. Bash think it's because his paycheck bounced, but it turns out that he's been hospitalized for AIDS. He dies off-screen without making an appearance.
  • Quick Nip: Sam, especially early on, often needs some alcohol and/or cocaine before going in front of his actors. Debbie also needs some Dutch Courage every now and then, and once, while already mad about everything that happened that day, takes some of Sam's cocaine, and ends up breaking Ruth's ankle.
  • Race Lift: A couple of examples, when comparing the real-life GLOW personalities and their fictional equivalents.
    • Fictional head trainer Salty "The Sack" Johnson is white, whereas real-life head trainer Mando Guerrero is Mexican-American.
    • Fictional wrestler Carmen aka Machu Picchu has a black father, just like her actor, Britney Young, does. Her real-life equivalent, Emily Dole, is Samoan-American. (Strangely, her two brothers' actors are of different races/nationalities – George "Brodus Clay/Tyrus" Murdoch is African-American, while Carlito Colon is Puerto Rican.)
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: To call the group of women Silvia gathers to create the promotion "colorful" would be a huge understatement.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: In-Universe, the animosity between Ruth and Debbie's ring personas is derived from their conflict in real life.
  • Really Gets Around: In season 3 after divorcing her husband and while staying at the Las Vegas hotel Debbie begins having sex with various male staff. Both valets, the night bartender, a baccarat dealer, and even a juggler. She also hooks up with Steel Horse a famously hung wrestler in season 1 after seeing him perform while attending her first live wrestling show. And later sleeps with an old businessman named Tex in Season 3. In total along with her husband Debbie has sex with 8 people over 3 seasons.
  • Rewatch Bonus: While all the other wrestlers burst into laughter at Sam's dating profile video, Justine has a Thousand-Yard Stare because she'd just watched her estranged father talk about how his cock works great.
  • Rich Bitch: Bash's mother is the most stereotypical conservative grand dame you are ever likely to meet this side of Flowers in the Attic and considers wrestling as little better than garbage.
  • Robot Buddy: Bash has a robot serving drinks and drugs at a party. The robot eventually becomes a prop for Rhonda's Britannica story.
  • Romance on the Set: In-Universe, this happens to Yolanda and Arthie after filming a dance sequence together in season 2. Sam even lampshades it:
    Oh man, did you two actually fall in love during that stupid dream ballet?
  • Rule-Abiding Rebel: Billy Offal. In spite of his punk aesthetic, he's a middle-class guy who lives with his mom and isn't allowed to play Cluedo because it contains a murder.
  • Running Gag: Gregory is convinced the team are actually prostitutes.
  • Russian Reversal: Ruth is inspired to create her Zoya the Destroya persona after Gregory the Russian American hotel manager tells her that "In Russia, television watches you."
  • Screwed by the Network: This happens to GLOW in-universe in the second season; firstly it gets demoted to a graveyard slot after Ruth refuses to sleep with the network president, then at the end of the season the network cancels the show and uses its ownership of the characters to bury it permanently and end any remote hope of a revival in syndication. Fortunately, in a bit of Loophole Abuse, it turns out the network only owned the TV rights, not the live performance rights, and the team salvages GLOW by turning it into a live Vegas show.
  • Second Episode Introduction: Bash makes his debut in the third episode of Season 1.
  • Show Within a Show: The show is about one of the most well-known female wrestling promotions in Professional Wrestling history. The eighth episode of Season 2 is an entire episode of GLOW, complete with skits, promos, matches, musical numbers, and even commercials, until the final reveal of who's watching the episode on TV – Justine's mother and her boyfriend.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Several to Back to the Future: Sam's screenplay Mothers and Lovers is said to share more than a few plot points with the film. In the first season finale, the GLOW wrestlers recruit people waiting to see the film at a theater, which also has the DeLorean on display.
    • Sam is in possession of a sample script that reads a lot like it could have been an early draft of A Boy and His Dog.
    • The episode title "Debbie Does Something" is a reference to Debbie Does Dallas.
    • When Cherry tries to give her some tough advice, Melrose tells her that she doesn't have time for this Louis Gossett Jr. and Richard Gere thing. Melrose makes another reference to the movie when Ruth gets carried by Gregory after her leg gets broken by Debbie.
    • While attending a bris, Ruth mentions Yentl and learns that everyone in attendance is a big fan, so she sings a song from it.
    • When performing as Zoya's good twin in America, Ruth says "What a country!" several times. This is the catchphrase of Russian-American comedian Yakov Smirnoff, who was popular in The '80s.
    • Justine wears the shirts of a number of punk bands, including the Dead Milkmen and the Germs.
    • The subplot between Black Magic and Britannica in "The Good Twin" carries several references to Weird Science and The Little Mermaid.
  • Spear Carrier: Male production staff perform all the male bit roles in GLOW sketches.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Toby, to Rhonda. The two nearly get married in the ring in the Season 2 finale... until Bash steps up and tells Rhonda he's the American she should be marrying so she can get her green card. Let's just say Toby doesn't take things very well.
  • Stalker Without A Crush: Sheila is stalked by a man who dresses up exactly like her, right down to the hair and outfit.
  • Starving Artist: At the start of the series, Ruth only has $83 in her bank account and can't find any acting work.
  • Stout Strength: The overweight Carmen is the strongest as well as most experienced wrestler.
  • Straw Political: Bash's mother is a hyper-conservative admirer of Nancy Reagan who hates liberals. She's unwilling to support his projects when he tries to sell them as a sob story about the dispossessed, but finally gets it and decides to support him financially when she sees Ruth give an honest but purely selfish reason for her role in GLOW. It's also implied that a major reason for Bash being an Armored Closet Gay is fear of his mother's disapproval.
  • Surprise Incest: Almost. Sam thinks Justine keeps following him around because she's got a crush on him. When she turns up in his hotel room one night, he tries to kiss her, but she shuts him down: the reason she's been hanging around is because she's been working up the nerve to tell him he's her dad.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • In season 3, the characters are finally successful with the Vegas show providing them with steady work and good paychecks. However, this type of lifestyle also has downsides that take their toll on them. Debbie has to commute back and forth between Los Angeles and Las Vegas to see her son and she misses his first steps. Ruth's boyfriend has to stay in Los Angeles and they have trouble maintaining the relationship. Sheila's wolf persona prevents her from moving into more serious acting roles. Tamme is injured but the regular performance schedule does not give her time to properly heal. Cherry realizes that if she gets pregnant she will have to leave the show and might never return while getting in debt due to compulsive gambling. Carmen hits a creative peak as she realizes that if she stays with the show she will never get to do the type of wrestling she really wants.
    • When Bash decides that he needs to leave Vegas and pulls his money out of the Rhapsody show, more than fifty people lose their jobs right before Christmas.
    • Sam has a history in the business of being an arrogant and selfish jerk with a litany of flops and bad projects. Thus, when he tries to sell a script of Justine's, he finds it hard to be taken seriously. One executive was a former assistant of Sam's who points out all the horrible crap Sam put him through on sets and now has the power to toss him out of the office.
    • Sheila has apparently wanted to be an actor since she showed up to the GLOW casting call, but she consistently resists removing her wolf outfit for any reason. In Season 3, when she starts taking acting lessons, the teacher tells her that she'll never get any roles if she insists on always dressing like a wolf. This forces her to have to choose between her acting career and her wolf lifestyle.
    • Tamme has been putting her show business dreams on the back burner while her son grew up and she enters it (and wrestling) as a middle-aged woman. In Season 3, she develops back pain and tries to self-medicate while still doing the lifting and throwing in her Welfare Queen routine, she ends up almost physically crippled and may have to give up wrestling.
  • Team Title: The eponymous GLOW is the name of the wrestling organization the main characters work for.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Debbie is extremely angry at Ruth but her Face character needs a good Heel and Ruth seems ideal for that. Steel Horse, an experienced male wrestler, explains to her that wrestlers do not have to be friends as long as they can be professional enough to make each other look good in the ring.
  • Technician vs. Performer: Debbie and Ruth. Debbie is naturally charismatic and classically beautiful, but becomes unstuck when she has to plan her promos or matches herself. Ruth lacks her magnetic personality and Amazonian looks, but is more deeply committed to the craft of acting and creating drama. They eventually realize that they do their best work together.
  • Title Drop: Most if not all of the episode titles are dropped within the episodes themselves, such as Nerds being the 1985 "Candy of the Year" and Sam quipping about Ruth's allergies being triggered by "Desert Pollen."
  • Trailers Always Lie:
    • The trailers made Debbie Eagan out to be a Alpha Bitch who torments Ruth. In the actual show Debbie is quite a nice person and supportive friend who has a very good reason to be pissed at Ruth. She slept with her husband. Twice. Though even this changes as Debbie has some more buried issues with Ruth.
    • They also imply the girls will have a professional training them the whole time. Salty is gone after the first episode because of Sam and the girls have to basically train themselves.
  • Training Montage: A given since this is a show about Professional Wrestling.
  • Trapped By Gambling Debt: Cherry finds herself $5,000 in the hole fro the craps table. To find the money to pay it off, she and Carmen do Mud Wrestling for a paid audience.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Debbie's husband Mark is considerably less attractive that her. Sam lampshades it when he finally meets him.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: In-universe, a lot of the girls are playing retrograde racial stereotypes, most notably Tamme's ring persona Welfare Queen, which her son explicitly calls a "minstrel character."
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: A very fictionalized version of the real GLOW.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Ruth and Debbie, when Debbie discovers that her husband Mark had an affair with Ruth. While they are gradually able to coexist and work together, Debbie still can't forgive Ruth.
  • Wham Line: Justine reveals that she's Sam's illegitimate daughter, just after Sam kisses her.
  • Wham Shot: In the first episode we see Ruth rekindle her affair with another woman's husband, with him revealed to be Debbie's husband a bit later with a photo of them attached to her keys.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: With all the cultural stereotypes invoked In-Universe, this is all over the place.
  • Wimp Fight: When Sam describes the various moves he expects the wrestlers to use in the pilot episode, he includes "that thing with the hands" and mimes the slap-fighting that is classically a part of this trope.
  • Worked Shoot: The season 1 finale features Debbie apparently choosing not to participate in the taping, with Ruth-as-Zoya being crowned GLOW champion... then Debbie stands up in the stands to challenge her, and wins as Liberty Belle, with it being revealed that Debbie's attending but not participating was all a work. Then Sam has a last-minute improvisation where Tamme wins the title from Debbie, so as to give the fans what they didn't expect and keep the story going.
  • Workout Fanservice:
    • The trailer features Debbie getting a Male Gaze while rehearsing with Ruth.
    • "The Good Twin" episode featured Liberty Belle leading Machu Picchu, Melrose, and Junkchain in a Robeks exercise class that was designed to "sweat those sorrows away!" It's subverted because we do get a good look at Liberty Belle's legs and butt, but also see her exaggerated and crying face.
  • World of Action Girls: GLOW's storyline has all of its female cast members as butt-kicking action girls, even the Beatdown Biddies.
  • Wrestling Family: Carmen comes from one of these, which impresses the show's trainer to no end. Her father initially dissaproves of her wrestling, since in their world, Women's Wrestling is an undignified sideshow, but eventually comes around and even starts a Crowd Chant to cheer her on in her first televized match. Her brothers are also recurring characters, helping them train, getting offended over stolen moves used on TV, and acting as a referree at the Vegas show when Keith leaves for a while.
  • Written-In Infirmity: In-Universe, when Debbie breaks Ruth's leg, the doctor says Ruth will be out of commission for about eight weeks. As a result, the next GLOW episode features none of Zoya fighting. Instead, Ruth plays Zoya's "good twin" Olga, who has a deformed left leg. They're sadly unable to hide Ruth's crutches for the "Kidnapping is Bad" PSA.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Sheila's birthday cake has her age as 106, which Stacey, Dawn, and Jenny claim is her age in "wolf years", while her age in traditional "dog years" would be 87. Working backwards, that would put the clearly adult Sheila's age between 14-17. Could've been intended as an In-Universe example, but if so it isn't clear.
  • You Are Fat: Carmen gets a panic attack that soon requires medical attention (with Bash close by), when she later asks the EMT to check her blood pressure, the EMT remarks if she's that concerned she needs to go to Weight Watchers. This is not played for laughs.

G.L.O.W., G.L.O.W.
That's the name
Women's wrestling is our game
If we play rough, please don't blame us
Our style is wild
And you know you can't tame us!"