‘Glamorous’ Review: Kim Cattrall Shines In Netflix Series

‘Glamorous’ Review: Kim Cattrall Shines In Netflix Series

Every generation gets the aspirational workplace it deserves. In 2006, “The Devil Wears Prada” helped establish the archetype of an imperious, intimidating woman who rules her chic urban office with an iron fist; with its obvious Anna Wintour analog, the book-turned-film also doubled as a bookend to the era of the print magazine editor’s omnipotence. Eight years later, Sophia Amoruso coined the term “Girlboss,” a cutesy moniker that soon got a Netflix adaptation to match. Latter-day examples have updated the template to keep pace with the times: “Younger” took place in the wake of the Great Recession, when securing a dream job requires some deceit, while “The Bold Type” was proudly progressive — think 2010s Cosmo, not mid-aughts Vogue. In these stories, actual employment is less secure, but the employer acts less like a dictator than a stern, if nurturing, mentor.

Now, there’s “Glamorous,” the new Netflix show that casts former YouTuber Miss Benny in the Andy Sachs role as an ambitious ingenue with lots to learn. But “Glamorous,” created by “Smash” and “Desperate Housewives” alum Jordon Nardino, eschews its genre’s traditional milieu of media and publishing in favor of beauty and makeup. Originally ordered to pilot at the CW, one can see why “Glamorous” also appealed to Netflix; it’s a close cousin of “Emily in Paris,” the Lily Collins comedy that’s a hit elsewhere on the service. Like that show’s namesake, Miss Benny’s Marco Mejia is also an aspiring influencer, with a pragmatic hustle and blithe narcissism both born of social media. The careerist of yesteryear wanted to work for a prestigious brand. The careerist of today wants to be a prestigious brand, though they’re happy to learn from their forebears in the meantime.

That brings us to the inspired casting of Kim Cattrall as Marco’s boss, and the even more inspired choice to program “Glamorous” directly opposite the season premiere of “And Just Like That” in which Cattrall will make a brief cameo later this season. Model-turned-makeup-mogul Madolyn Addison shares some key characteristics with Cattrall’s Samantha Jones; she’s a high-powered professional with a commanding air and witty charm. But Madolyn is also more vulnerable than Samantha. When she meets Marco at the mall kiosk where he hawks Glamorous by Madolyn wares to his fellow New Jerseyites, her company is at a crossroads, exploring a potential sale while attempting to reach a new audience. So she hires Marco as her new second assistant, beaming him up to the Glamorous mothership.

“Glamorous” quickly coheres into a workplace ensemble with both recognizable tropes and an approach that’s just fresh enough to set the series apart. Almost all of Madolyn’s employees, Marco included, are queer, an identity that affects their respective arcs to varying degrees. Her son Chad (Zane Phillips), the bro-y head of sales who craves his mother’s approval, explains that he’s “gay, but not, like…gay.” Her first assistant Venetia (Jade Payton) happens to be bi, but spends most of her time concerned that she’s spent three years at the company without a promotion. Marco finds himself in a classic love triangle between Ben (Michael Hsu Rosen), a sweet nerd who works in product design, and Parker (Graham Parkhurst), a finance bro he meets in an Uber en route to the Hudson Yards Equinox. (Another trait “Glamorous” shares with “Emily in Paris” is its open embrace of capitalist excess.)

The queer themes of “Glamorous” manifest in everything from its offhand jokes to its core conflicts. Venetia observes that Marco is “flopping like a Katy Perry single” in his first week on the job; a vacation episode plays out in Provincetown and culminates with a lip sync competition. Such references could feel pandering if they weren’t executed with a tongue-in-cheek sense of play. (One brilliant montage sees Marco try to catch Madolyn in a candid moment for Instagram, only for her to dramatically vamp every time she spots him phone in hand.) Marco’s big idea for bringing Glamorous to customers like him is a Pride campaign — supposedly, the first of its kind from a luxury beauty brand. A quick Google reveals this isn’t the case in the real world, but “Glamorous” is confident enough in its candy-hued fantasy to take us along for the ride.

Much of that confidence comes from Cattrall. Miss Benny is new to leading a series, and their performance has a tentative quality that both suits Marco’s 22-year-old naiveté and sometimes struggles to sell the character’s less sympathetic side. (Marco may know his makeup, but he’s a terrible assistant when he starts.) Madolyn, too, has her moments, disappearing on her staff at critical junctures and refusing to acknowledge when she may have gambled too freely with her employees’ livelihoods. But Cattrall draws on the reverence audiences bring for her role in TV history while infusing Madolyn with her own flaws, drive and killer eyewear collection. 

Netflix executive Jinny Howe once coined the term “gourmet cheeseburger” to describe the company’s ideal output. “Glamorous” nails the brief: a winning and earnest coming-of-age story furnished with silly gags that speak to its specific audience, like a consultant named Mykynnleigh (Nicole Power) whose idea of theater is Stomp. The glossy office farce has endured for good reason, putting a relatable quest for meaningful work in an escapist package. “Glamorous” tweaks the format to help it endure, preserving its joys for Gen Z’s viewing pleasure.

All ten episodes of “Glamorous” are now streaming on Netflix.

Updated: An earlier version of this review misspelled the name of Netflix executive Jinny Howe.