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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The “Concerned Women Of America” and GLOW really have some stuff to work out

Illustration for article titled The “Concerned Women Of America” and GLOW really have some stuff to work out
Photo: Beth Dubber (Netflix)

While the viewing audience is conditioned to see the women of GLOW as underdogs, the show’s already making clear that their hard work is not going unnoticed. Sure, the previous episode had a problem with live audience investment, but a major point was that they had a live audience at all; people were even coming to the shows late, just hoping to see the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling in action. They’re on TV at Saturday morning, so they’re doing something right. “Concerned Women Of America” shows just how much they’re doing right, as they’ve already drawn the attention of a parents TV watchdog group.


Despite Yolanda’s previous judgment of the show being “G-rated girl-on-girl,” G.L.O.W. is apparently “too sexual” for the Concerned Women of America group, which allows for GLOW to tackle another ‘80s staple: the Public Service Announcement. While Ruth is of course still treated like Ruth, she’s mostly out of the doghouse here, and she gets to help Debbie write the PSA. GLOW regularly makes you wonder whether you should even want Debbie and Ruth to reconcile as friends, and scenes like the initial brainstorming session (with the kicker that neither one of them knows how to type) and their general back and forth, finishing each other’s sentences, fall definitively in the category of pro-reconciliation. However, in between these genuinely endearing moments are the points where Debbie slams Russell (who she just calls “Camera Guy”) to Ruth. (“Ugh. That guy looks like an extra from Taxi.” is pretty on point though.) But then again, Ruth and Debbie are Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin, and they’re the leads of the show, so of course the audience should want them to work things out, right?

It feels like they might when Ruth ditches her planned date with Russell to stay behind and help Debbie, who seems like she doesn’t want to go back home to an empty house and baby Randy. Of course, when Ruth brings up that possibility, Debbie throws it back at Ruth, with a bold exit line admitting she figured out Ruth was supposed to go on a date with Russell. How intentionally she messed with Ruth’s attempt at happiness is up for debate, but she gets the last word. I hate to throw about the term “abusive relationship,” but with how desperate Ruth is to have Debbie back on her side—to get her forgiveness—and how eager Debbie is to use that, as well as how quickly she can flip the switch, that’s kind of what it is. Which is again why the question is whether the audience should really want them to reconcile. Russell’s line about Ruth looking like “a really nice person being taken advantage of by her friend” only tells part of the story, though.

And leave it to GLOW to turn a light PSA story into a serious question about friendship, if it can even be called that. But in the same plot, on an adjacent branch of the tree, is a story about the aggressively stupid (in all the best ways) power of friendship. Of course GLOW has no problem turning that watchdog name into a double meaning for the episode, as the impressive teenage libidos of Justine and Billy end up making the G.L.O.W. Girls pissed off they haven’t had sex since they started doing this show—even though they’re basically celebrities now. These women are concerned for their own well-being if they don’t engage in some debauchery and sex, which turns this episode with a PSA and an affecting storyline about worth (Cherry’s plot) into an ‘80s sex comedy from a female perspective. This is also how we get a plot about Melrose’s “poop baby,” which allows GLOW to remind everyone it has Kate Nash as a series regular specifically to sing songs about poop babies. A lucky jacket exchanged for an enema (from “slave for fashion” Jenny) is just the icing on the irreverent cake. The plot also leads to the gloriously ‘80s tracking shot following a jacket-clad Jenny through the party by the GLOWtel pool, getting the power of the lucky jacket by hooking up with hot camera guy Phil (Wyatt Nash), the object of Melrose’s affection. It’s nowhere near the drama “love triangle” of Debbie/Mark/Ruth though.

The check-in with Cherry was bound to happen eventually (as Sydelle Noel is still a series regular), but while she’s certainly another concerned woman of America, this plot is the most dramatic through and through. It starts off well enough, on the set of the Chambers & Gold pilot and kicking things off with a police chase by foot leading to a badass car hood slide. But it soon addresses the fact that, despite her presence and charisma, Cherry can’t act. In season one, the reason Sam didn’t make Cherry the main event face was simply because she was black, but in this case, it’s unfortunately genuine talent that’s holding her back. And unfortunately, it’s not until she sees the dailies hat she’s even able to see that, due to a lack of communication.


I struggle with the episode’s decision not to have the director or even Glen take Cherry aside and actually speak to her about her acting. At the same time, GLOW is telling a story about these women in power—these stars—still being left out of discussions that affect them, not having their voices heard. Sydelle Noel sells the fact that Cherry truly has no idea what the problem is with her work on the show, and she does so while playing “bad actor” on a show that could’ve easily made her bad acting a comedic bit instead of a serious one. What it really shows is how bad of a director the network chose for Chambers & Gold, not talking through things with the lead before just calling it a day on giving her lines and forcing her to relax her hair (a point that was especially unnecessary, as it took away part of what the network liked about her in the first place, her style). Even though this show is just coming off of Sam irrationally punishing Ruth for his own hang-ups—and there’s the moment where it seems he doesn’t care—he saves the day for Cherry as someone who actually understands and listens to her, while telling it to her straight.

Sascha Rothchild’s script for “Concerned Women Of America” is the funniest of the first three episodes, while also featuring some pretty heavy lifting (naturally picked up by Brie and Gilpin, with Noel’s work as the pleasant surprise). With Cherry’s failure as a TV star—that’s at least somewhat softened by Sam’s help—the G.L.O.W. gang can really get back together and hopefully end the early-season set-up. Plus, while this episode finds Debbie and Ruth going through their umpteenth friendship collision, the rest of the G.L.O.W. Girls are simply getting trashed and making memories. That’s GLOW in a nutshell.


Stray observations

  • When Debbie starts pitching the PSA, she does so as Liberty Belle and almost immediately realizes that’s a bad idea and speaks normally. You can almost see the “No, don’t do that.” flashing in her brain. Betty Gilpin doing the “little things” is where she shines.
  • Rhonda: “Poop baby / Poop baby / Come out in a flash / Into the toilet / And make a big splash
  • Melrose: “Last time I wore it, Scott Baio hit on me, and I made out with his cousin.” A magical jacket indeed.
  • Season one showed how it wasn’t a big deal (compared to so much else) that Ruth got an abortion, but Alison Brie plays it here so you can see a hint of worry on Ruth’s face when Debbie first goes with the “unwanted pregnancy” idea, before going right along with the teen pregnancy act.
  • Of course the PSA is a 100% “abstinence, yay!” standpoint, which makes it even funnier Ruth and Debbie are basically bouncing with excitement to pitch it. It’s great we get to see the PSA, because baby Carmen slamming college (Rhonda), fun parties (Dawn & Stacey), international travel (Ruth), and a rocking body (Melrose) is exactly what one would imagine their brilliant idea would be. Also, Bash as the boyfriend to Justine’s teenager character is appropriately awkward, not just because of Bash’s possible sexuality but because Justine’s actually a teenager.
  • While years of acting classes is Sam’s suggestion, working on G.L.O.W. can help Cherry out as an actor as well. The wrestler-to-actor transition isn’t an exact science, but a longer career in wrestling, working on character work, and even practicing promos can only help.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Despite her mother's wishes, LaToya Ferguson is a writer living in Los Angeles. If you want to talk The WB's image campaigns circa 1999-2003, LaToya's your girl.