GLOW is a new half-hour comedy-drama currently streaming on Netflix. Created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, and starring Mad Men’s Alison Brie, it’s a raucously funny and occasionally profoundly affecting bit of television that you’re going to want to see no matter how you feel about wrestling.
It’s also very Jewish.
Brie stars as Ruth Wilder, a struggling actress who gets involved in the ramshackle “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” operation but unlike her motley crew of co-workers, struggles to find a wrestling persona that suits both her and the haphazard demands of neophyte producer Sebastian Howard (Chris Lowell) and world-weary, slightly washed-up, director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron.)
Eventually Ruth develops cartoonish Russian character ‘Zoya The Destroya’ to complement the all-American persona of her WASP-y former best friend Debbie Eagan (Nurse Jackie’s Betty Gilpin).
But it isn’t all plain sailing. Debbie refuses to appear in the ring with Ruth. Given that Debbie has been selected as the star of the show by director Sam, this leaves Ruth with something of an identity crisis.
She solves it…at least temporarily…when a research trip to a party thrown by ex-pat Russian Jews inspired her to create a Jewish heroine persona that compliment Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling’s token ‘terrorist’ personality Beirut The Mad Bomber (not-at-all Arabic character Arthie Premkumar played by not-at-all Arabic actress Sunita Mani.)
The party, in which Ruth unexpectedly sings a selection from Yentl and witnesses an ad hoc bris, makes Episode 6 GLOW’s most explicitly Jewish segment but the whole series – with its themes of family, ambition, and striving against adversity – makes this show essential viewing for Jews and non-Jews alike.