Welcome to “Weekend Stream,” where every Friday, Darian Lusk — comedian and writer living large in Brooklyn — will gently recommend something new and exciting to stream, listen to or play over the weekend. Follow him on Twitter @eatpraylusk to send suggestions for future installments.
TV critics are raving about GLOW this week, the new Netflix original series from Orange Is The New Black’s Jenji Kohan that stars Alison Brie and friend of Obama, Marc Maron. Premiering on June 23, the comedy chronicles the first all-female wrestling show, a rag-tag cult hit that took 80s television by storm.
Unfortunately, this column is not about that Netflix series.
I could not get early access to GLOW because I am not an elite TV critic (yet?!). However what is currently streaming, which you may stumble upon if you search “GLOW” on Netflix as I did, is the surprisingly phenomenal 2012 documentary about the wrestlers that inspired the series.
GLOW: The Story of The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, is an hour-long glimpse into this bizarre, wonderful, extremely 80s punk wrestling TV show, which ran from 1986 to 1990 before getting cancelled. Director Britt Whitcomb treats us to original footage and interviews with the main cast who, 30 years later, look back on what for many was the time of their lives.
For those of us who weren’t watching TV/alive in the 80s, let me try to set the stage. The Chicago Bears had just won the Super Bowl and released a hit rap song called the Super Bowl Shuffle. Mike Tyson was the world’s most famous fighter. Yet, there were barely any women in the ring. One fighter recounts being in the WWE before GLOW, and because women couldn’t face off against men, she had to fight an actual bear.
Even today, there aren’t many female wrestlers to look up to, aside maybe from Chyna (RIP) and Game of Thrones’ Brienne of Tarth. It’s slim pickings in wrestling video games too. I’d know, as I used to play hours of them with my youngest brother, who was obsessed with the WWE when he was approximately seven years old. So much so that my mom brought him to Wrestlemania in Miami. I think he was too young to remember.
So 80s producer and director Matt Cimber (played in the upcoming show by Maron) saw this opportunity. He held a vague open casting call for actresses, asked who amongst them could wrestle (one third quickly left) — and the rest is history.
Each GLOW actress took on a distinct, amazing costumed identity, from the stereotypical Russian Ninochka to equally stereotypical Little Egypt (yes, there were many stereotypes; see also “Palestina”). And each starred in their own intro rap, which is great, as well as over-the-top sketches that are somehow both indelibly 80s and strangely ahead of their time, in a Stella sort of way.
The biggest star was Mt. Fiji, a towering, ‘fro-rocking force of nature who dwarfed the other ladies at 350 pounds. Her biggest rival was Matilda the Hun, a flaming red-haired glamazon queen who ate raw meat to intimidate her foes. Matilda is amped to be on camera for this doc, really going the extra mile by doing her interviews in full costume and makeup. It’s fun to think about how the actors in the Netflix version will portray these characters, since I haven’t had the chance to see the new show myself. But that will change. I’ve been DMing Netflix founder Reed Hastings the prayer hands emoji every day and I know he’ll break down soon.
And though some GLOW cast members went on to live regular lives, and others went on to the WWE, for many this was the peak of their careers. Mt. Fiji is now in a nursing home because of her weight and persistent knee problems. As she reminisces, it becomes clear that, more than the other girls, those four years were her best.
The film culminates with a reunion party with all the brawlers who we’ve only seen separately until this point. Mt. Fiji arrives last, and there’s a tear-jerking moment in which she is wheeled in and her sisters all sing the main GLOW theme song. (Much like the Superbowl Shuffle, the theme song is a JAM.) Since these women lived together and spent most hours of the day together, the odd 80s TV sensation offered, best of all, a sisterhood.
Other great things to stream this weekend:
Truthhunters.com: UCB’s Connor O’malley made some of the best election cycle content with his character Mark Seevers, a Trump fan boy who runs his own truther website. Now that we’ve found ourselves in this reality, O’Malley has gone full truther, bringing us a 20 minute tour-de-force pilot of what Seevers is up to since the election. Part journey to the inauguration, part side sketches, this could honestly be our generation’s Ali-G. Comedy Central, get on this before, like, Fusion does! (Added June 14)
Oh Hello On Broadway: In case you missed their Broadway run, or had tickets to see them pre-Broadway at UCB but got too tired because it was at 11 p.m., now’s your chance to experience Oh Hello. The two-man show starring John Mulaney and Nick Kroll as Upper West Side misanthropes was a huge success in 2016, and it’s no surprise why. The Steely Dan-loving, coffee smelling weirdos are hilarious and now we can all experience their glory. (Added June 13)
Lorde’s Melodrama: Today is The Lorde’s Day, AKA the blessed day in which the 20-year-old Australian icon of music and witchcraft releases her new album. Melodrama, produced by Jack Antonoff, is the best pop album of the year. With current hits like Green Light and future chart toppers like Homemade Dynamite, we’re going to be hearing a lot of Melodrama this summer. Especially if you’re friends with me. (Added June 16)