Entertainment

Where GLOW fits among the 10 best sports TV shows

Ready, set, match. Or rather, ready, set, watch.

Netflix’s GLOW returned for a second season in late June, bringing us 10 more episodes of Spandex-clad wrestling glory. The series, about female wrestlers in the 1980s, is one of the latest sports-themed TV shows that try to meld on- and off-the field drama. Not many have figured out just how to nail that tricky balance.

In honour of the return of GLOW, we picked the 10 best sports TV shows of all time. Equipment not included.

10. One Tree Hill

Don’t knock the soapy teen drama before you try it. Sure, by the end of the series’ long run, One Tree Hill wasn’t so much about feuding basketball stars anymore but still, in its early seasons the drama on the court was just as crucial as teen marriages and Lucas Scott’s (Chad Michael Murray) love interests. It may not rise to the highs of other shows on this list, but it was always a melodramatic good time.

9. Ballers

When in doubt, turn to The Rock. Dwayne Johnson takes breaks between starring in seemingly every movie to film HBO’s hit comedy (returning Aug. 12) about a football star turned sports manager, a high-testosterone mix of Entourage (without the baggage) and Jerry Maguire. Come for The Rock, stay for the sunny skies and inventive insults.

8. GLOW

Netflix’s fictionalized, behind-the-scenes story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling from the 1980s was a fun summer comedy romp in its first season but pile-drives into gear for a deeper, more rewarding second. Its deep bench of comedic talent, candy-coloured esthetics and respect for wrestling make it a must-watch for wrestling nerds and newcomers alike.

7. American Ninja Warrior

The best exhibition of athleticism on TV other than watching an actual football or basketball game, NBC’s reality competition is an emotional celebration of the human spirit. From its increasingly difficult obstacle courses to its inspirational contestants to the genuine awe and excitement of announcers Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, nothing on the series feels forced or inauthentic. If only all reality TV shows were this pure.

6. Eastbound and Down

Produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, and starring the reliably doltish comedic stylings of Danny McBride, this HBO series is not the one you want to watch if you want to see inspirational sports stories. The comedy follows a one-time major-league relief pitcher who is forced to return home and be a substitute gym teacher, to less-than-successful effect.

5. Coach

With Coach, the long-running sitcom starring Craig T. Nelson, you get a two-for-one deal with sports jokes and 1990s sitcom tropes. On ABC from 1989 to 1997, the classic comedy follows Coach Fox (Nelson) as he tries to whip the fictional Minnesota State University Screaming Eagles into shape. The sitcom, often both hilarious and heartwarming, is all the fun of sports without too much drama — just what you want sometimes.

4. The White Shadow

Although on CBS only from 1978 to 1981, The White Shadow was a groundbreaking series because it was one of the first network dramas to include a largely African-American cast. Like many classic sports films, The White Shadow dealt explicitly with the relationship between race and sports when a white coach (Ken Howard) starts coaching the basketball team at a racially diverse, underfunded city high school.

3. ESPN’s 30 for 30

Although the best episode of this ESPN sports documentary series won an Oscar for Best Documentary (OJ: Made in America), it’s still technically TV and one of the most illuminating nonfiction series on today. If you want the best of the best, try the OJ documentary or The Price of Gold, which gives a much better portrait of the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan saga than the fictionalized I, Tonya did last year.

2. Sports Night

Before he brought his fast-talking, idealistic characters to the White House in The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin tried his hand at this short-lived series about a fictional sports talk show, in the vein of SportsCenter. Its incredible cast (including Josh Charles, Peter Krause, Felicity Huffman, Joshua Malina and Robert Guillaume) spat Sorkin’s dialogue with ease and made this cancelled-too-soon series a cult classic.

1. Friday Night Lights

There’s nothing better than spending time with the Taylors. The classic high school football show, inspired by the 1990 bestselling book (also adapted into a 2004 film of the same name), is the pinnacle of sports television, a deft portrayal of what high school football means to a small Texas town. The series featured some of the strongest TV performances from Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, and also served as an incubator for talents such as Taylor Kitsch, Jesse Plemons and Michael B. Jordan.