“Physical is an intense ride, but it’s full of ’80s nostalgia, dark comedy, and excellent performances. Must-See!”
In what looks to be a sibling series to Netflix’s pro-wrestling hit GLOW, Apple TV+ brings their new ’80s show Physical to their slate of original content that follows a woman who sets out to be the star of the direct-to-video exercise video empire. There’s a lot on the surface that is similar between the two shows, but with Physical, there’s an extremely dark side to the main character performed by the incredible Rose Byrne. Physical in its 10-episode first season introduces some complex characters and sets this spiraling, yet uplifting story for many more episodes in the future. It’s an intense ride, but it’s full of ’80s nostalgia, dark comedy, and excellent performances.
Physical follows Sheila Rubin (Byrne), a mostly by-the-books housewife in San Diego who has mostly come to terms with her lot in life, mainly being cooking, cleaning, and running errands for her young kid and her hippie husband Danny (Rory Scovel), who never appreciates anything his wife does and has decided to run for local office, all while trying to have a sex life with young college girls in and out of his marriage. Sheila’s audible inner monologue tells her true feelings, which leans on the hateful side of things, but has a heavy dose of witty sarcastic putdowns that she never says out loud.
Sheila’s big secret is that she has a debilitating eating disorder that has her spending money almost every day, gorging herself on a giant feast of fast-food burgers, fries, and pies that she delicately lays out on a seedy motel bed, where she starts her binge snakes as the day she was born. After each burger meal, she tells herself it’s the last time, but her husband and other people in her life cause her to stay back into this traumatic habit. That is until she’s at the mall and sees an aerobic’s exercise class that gives her a big idea that might start off that decade’s long craze of exercise classes in spandex that expanded to the home-video market.
What’s extraordinarily different with Physical as opposed to GLOW is that Physical dives into its character’s inner-physche and shows what makes them tick, especially Sheila, and it’s not happy-go-lucky whatsoever. And the focus is not trying to start an empire from scratch with obstacles coming every which way. This is more like an exorcism with exercise music of one’s character transformation from being timid and shy to being something all-encompassing and powerful, while not always taking the right path. In fact, Sheila doesn’t elicit goodwill or feelings, making her the anti-hero most of the time, but that’s what makes her so magical and intriguing, and of course, more realistic and relatable. Byrne’s performance is dynamic and nuanced as she struggles and comes to head with every element in her life from her idiotic husband to the wealthy neighbor whom she treats like garbage, to even the young pair she befriends who help her out with camerawork and her exercise dream.
Physical is not the show that is expected going into it, but that’s a great thing because it delivers something so much more in each of its 30-minute episodes, which leaves everyone wanting more of this story and of Byrne. She’s complex, nasty, understanding, lovely, and a true badass. Physical Season One is a MUST-WATCH new show on Apple TV+ and Rose Byrne is simply remarkable.