The strangest, quirkiest stories out there are usually based in truth and that's the case for Netflix's latest show, GLOW. Premiering on June 23, the series stars Alison Brie as a struggling actress in the '80s who joins a new TV show focused on all-female wrestling. While the Jenji Kohan-produced series is scripted, GLOW is based on the true story of the real-life TV show GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling that premiered in 1986 and ran for four seasons. The inspiration for the Netflix show is absurdly fascinating, so even though GLOW doesn't follow events exactly as they happened for the women involved, you'll still want to learn about the original show before embarking on Netflix's GLOW.
As Vanity Fair reported, GLOW co-creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch came up with the series after watching the 2012 documentary, GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, about the '80s show. (You can actually watch the documentary yourself on Netflix.) The documentary highlights the first-ever (and only) all-female wrestling show that aired on Saturday mornings in the '80s. The women featured were rarely professional wrestlers and they were taught how to wrestle for the cheering crowds since the documentary notes how popular the series was. Along with their antics in the ring, they also incorporated high levels of camp in other ways with costumes and personas, skits and raps, and absurd amounts of glitter and hairspray.
After Flahive and Mensch watched the documentary about GLOW, they understandably went "down a rabbit hole" of watching old episodes of the '80s show, according to Vanity Fair. From there, they developed the GLOW that's airing on Netflix, which VF described as a "a fictionalized making-of story." That's because the characters in Netflix's GLOW are more composites of the people who were involved in the original series, but the Netflix show is not a biopic of the real people.
For example, while Brie's character Ruth is the main character, there was no such person involved in the actual formation of GLOW. And if you look at the cast lists from the original show and the Netflix show, you'll see the names are all different. That's not to say you won't be able to draw comparisons between the real women involved and the fictional version of their story — especially when considering the cultural stereotypes that GLOW perpetuated and dramatized. And while the story is mostly about the women involved, you can also find similarities between the men who were behind the scenes, like Marc Maron's Sam Silvia to the real director of GLOW, Matt Cimber.
Another change to the series is the fact that Netflix's GLOW is set in Los Angeles, while the real version filmed in Las Vegas. But perhaps the greatest change is that Netflix's version of GLOW is created by women. So while GLOW from 1986 was made by men, GLOW from 2017 takes a look at this series from more of a female perspective. In that way, Netflix's GLOW will be a fantastic history lesson of how the GLOW women were given a unique opportunity to become famous while simultaneously being exploited. And as you marathon Netflix's latest series, the story of the all-female wrestling show will be a captivating reminder that truth is almost always stranger than fiction.