I’m half-cut in a hotel room watching the first episode of Glow, and I’m so confused.
We’re less than a minute into the television event of 2016 and, after an establishing shot that could be Stirling or Eccleston or Coventry (there is nothing recognisably Glaswegian about it) there’s some exercise, then I’m watching someone cross the road on a bicycle outside my brother’s flat and then a girl called Lauren McDonald is striding purposefully into a building and the bottom left corner of the screen is telling me she’s a Hair Stylist but the top right corner is telling me she’s #AnnaFaeCafeSavoy. She walks into the building but then fractions of a second later she’s outside again and walking in again. This does not make sense because she was crossing the threshold of the door literally a second ago but now she’s actually outside again.
By the third time Lauren has walked into her shop from a different angle I’m utterly confused. Who is Anna and what is Cafe Savoy? Is this a trick? She’s now walking into the shop for a fourth time and I think I’m entitled to ask some serious questions about what is going on. Is Lauren/Anna a magical hair-cutting/flat white-serving mythical being who is manipulating time with a Bernard’s Watch-type device?
There’s no time to consider this because now Brian is on the scene and he also has a building to walk into. The bottom left says Brian Matthews, Night Club Owner but the top right says #OwenNaeSocks. Is it “Owen” because he “owens” the night club? I genuinely don’t understand but before I can even think about it we’re on to Denise. The bottom left tells us Denise is a Bar Manager. She is scooping ice into glasses even though the bar has no customers and it’s the middle of the day outside. The top right tells us her name is #OorTrisha and I think I see what’s going on here. The bottom left tells us the real information that corresponds to the person on the screen and the words on the #TopRight are like a made-up code. I can’t work out what the code means yet, but I’m nothing if not this generation’s Alan Turing so I’ll get there.
A few minutes pass and there’s some bad sound mixing and some REALLY bad CGI of a bridge and now Paddy the boxer is jumping about the ring in his glittery vest and it’s the night before his professional debut. We’re told three times that he’s sharp and the timing was perfect.
Now we’re driving round the same roundabout several times in Paddy’s totally legitimately-bought Range Rover and oh god the nerves are kicking in. The good thing about his coach is that he isn’t just his boxing coach; he is his life coach too and the Paddy is getting a dating lesson over a lovely chicken supper. Paddy is salivating so hard over the “wee darling” he’s been seeing that he needs to keep wiping his mouth and you can hear in his voice that he is extremely sexually aroused. “I think I’m starting to develop some genuine feelings,” bemoans the big boxing boy as the juices continue to run. This is literally one of the first lines in the show. It is one of this first things anyone says, and it something that nobody has ever said in real life. We are less than seven minutes into the entire series. We don’t know who this guy is, we don’t know his motivations, we don’t know who the girl is, we don’t know anything about him or why he’s developing “genuine feelings”. Another wipe.
At this point, producer Stephanie Doherty flexes her directorial muscles with a powerful homage to Scorsese’s 1980 masterwerk Raging Bull. I can almost hear the haunting Intermezzo from Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana as the unstoppable force Paddy meets the immovable object in the green trunks, Joe.
Spoiler alert: Paddy/Jake LaMotta wins and then two girls are arguing and shouting and we have literally no idea why. There is no explanation. They’re just saying words and then it’s “to be continued…”. Cool. It really, honestly says “to be continued…” right in the middle of the episode like that. It is truly baffling.
“She’s no git an answer fur it,” says this one to the club man. An answer fur whit? We just don’t know.
The post-match debriefing takes place at Paddy’s place. Paddy goes full Select Committee on his home boys, asking: “How did ye… …. … did ye… feel?”
We get the news that the girls were arguing and that James ended up at the dancing with his shirt open. “Arse…. arse hole nn that, the flatcapped one repents. We still don’t know why the girls were so angry. Major flaws are beginning to open up in the Glow narrative. We are 15 minutes and 11 seconds into the series.
“Suhin tae tell yeez. Me nn Steph’s got a wee hing thegither… startin tae develop some feelins thegither.” With these words, Paddy marks himself out as a romantic; the most sensitive boxer since Chris Eubank. No other boxer has had feelings like this. He asks the boys for their approval in his choice of date for the ball on Saturday (a BALL are you fucking kidding me?) and their reaction is one of unbridled enthusiasm. “Yeez look good thegither,” says the one without the hat. “Get suited up and get her in a wee ballgown,” he lusts. “Walk in hand in hand.” By now my laptop screen is practically overflowing with sexual energy, this fantasy playing out in front of the hatless one’s very eyes, his dream so close to coming true.
“Whit aboot yirsels man? Got any wee… cheeky mamas in the pipeline,” asks Paddy. Fuck, I can hardly take this. I take two minutes to go and splash some cold water on my face because this is getting intensely charged. The answer from the goons is overwhelmingly yes. Drama is on the cards. Why? We don’t know. Who cares? We end on some laughs. Good hustle, guys.
I’m too tired for this shit. It’s half 1 in the morning and there’s half an hour of this fucking garbage left. If all of this seems like a list of things happening, if this seems completely lacking of any kind of analysis or insight – it’s because that’s what episode one of Glow is. How can I provide you with anything other than a list of events when the material itself is nothing other than a cobbled-together hash of staged, contrived, poorly-scripted, horrendously-acted, inconsequential moments that looks like it was filmed by a toddler on a My First Movie Making kit? I can’t provide context or thought when the source material is so desperately fucking devoid of it.
I can’t wait to watch the rest tomorrow. Join me.