Physical, the dark half-hour comedy-drama starring Rose Byrne wrapped up last week. The show is a tough watch, no doubt, that brings up a lot of feelings about body positivity and diet/workout culture, but the season ended strong, with Sheila (Byrne) tasting her first success as an aerobics instructor as her husband (Rory Scovel) loses his political campaign. Physical has been renewed for a second season, which I am glad of because we haven’t yet seen what happens as Sheila rises to the top of the home video workout craze in the 1980s. Like what exactly happens with Bunny (Della Saba)? I do wonder how long Physical can conceivably go, because it is SO dark and there is only so much you can handle of that, and also, there is a clear endpoint for the story, which is Sheila in 1986, as teased in the flash-forwards of her making a new workout tape. I just hope Physical doesn’t get GLOW-ed or Santa Clarita Diet-ed, which is to say, cancelled before it can finish its story.
I also want more Physical because I want more of the 1980s aesthetic. This is not a glamorous view of the 80s, but the world of aerobics does open the door to color and contrast and fun, impractical clothing choices. There is a lot to admire about Physical, starting with Rose Byrne’s tremendous performance, but my favorite visual element is easily the aerobics fashion. “Celebrate” feels like a strange word to use for a show as dark as Physical, but let’s celebrate the end of season one and the second season renewal by taking a look at the best aerobics fashions Physical has to offer.
Greta gets her groove back
True, this isn’t technically “aerobics fashion”, but I want to give a little shout to Greta (Dierdre Friel) for emerging from season one as probably the happiest and most confident person on screen. Greta started her aerobics journey having a breakdown in class, unable to keep up and negatively comparing herself to the glamazons around her. But through the power of consensual kinky sex, Greta gets her groove back, not only reenergizing her marriage but also finding the confidence that eludes literally every other woman in the show. Now, Greta is happy to bop along to Sheila’s class in her jeans and jumper. It’s going to be very sad when Sheila inevitably screws Greta in some way.
Bunny’s inspirational lewk
Bunny’s platinum blonde hair and blue eyeshadow catches Sheila’s eye out and about in San Diego, so it is appropriate that her first aerobics outfit is equally bright and eye-catching. I especially love this look because it’s a little bit Madonna, which is fun because Bunny is in 1981 and Madonna won’t hit the charts until 1982. I like the insinuation that Bunny’s street look is the precursor to Madonna’s breakout style, especially since early Madonna’s aesthetic was heavily invested in street styles, borrowing from the same disco hangover and punk style Bunny wears in the studio.
As Bunny and Sheila choreograph their first videotape routine, they wore these contrasting leotards. Bunny’s is cute, but nothing she wears throughout the season ever tops her hot pink suspenders, and this is really notable as being the first glimpse of what becomes Sheila’s signature style. When she first gets into aerobics, Sheila wears muted colors, but as she begins teaching and then taping, she starts going for bright leotards sans tights, with legwarmers. This turquoise number is the first time we see this outfit on her, but it won’t be the last.
Just really good eyeshadow
Let’s just take a moment to appreciate the magenta and turquoise eyeshadow here. It is excellent, and I wish I was brave enough to rock that in the real world. Also, I couldn’t get a clear shot of this entire outfit, but it is Sheila walking around the mall in a leotard and legwarmers with a jacket thrown over like a totally normal ensemble. My first pandemic winter aesthetic was leggings and oversized sweaters with legwarmers on the really cold days. I never wore it outside, though. Do I have the guts to embrace Sheila’s “legwarmers are an acceptable item of outside clothing” way of life?
Here again is Sheila’s signature look, leotard sans tights with legwarmers. This time, it comes in a fun candystriper pattern. The red and white stripe is the perfect balance between the neon colors Sheila is moving into as a budding aerobics mogul, and the patriotic colors of her husband’s political rally. She is, at least, paying lip service to her husband’s political ambitions, but with the pink stage and flashing lights, it’s clear who the star of the family really is.
Throughout the season, we see flashes of Sheila recording a new aerobics tape in 1986. It is clear she has found some measure of success, given the production values on set. Bunny is nowhere to be seen, but here Sheila is wearing her signature look, this time in fuchsia. The color choice feels like a nod to Bunny’s intro outfit, a way of showing that Sheila has supplanted Bunny, the student becoming the teacher, but Sheila’s “pink studio” is a LOT fancier than Bunny’s. This is Sheila in her final form, and interestingly, no one from the 1981 timeline is still with her in 1986. Can’t wait to see how she destroys everyone around her on her way up in season two!