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Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
ccording to the Urban Dictionary, “pulling” is British slang for:
1. To kiss someone; to initiate a seduction.
2. To kiss and/or fool around with someone in competition with one's friends to see who can put up the highest numbers or attract the most beautiful people around, as much for sheer entertainment's sake as for personal satisfaction. Occurs most frequently in pubs and bars.
That definition doesn’t stop “Pulling” co-creator/writer and star Sharon Horgan from pulling a fast one on the viewer in the series’ first scene. The episode begins with Donna (Horgan) in bed with her schlubby fiancé, Karl (Cavan Clerkin), pulling away at his nether regions. After he climaxes, she gets up, seemingly having done her duty, while he reaches over to a potted plant, breaks off a leaf, wipes himself clean, and deposits the jizz soaked flora behind the nightstand. This is followed by a comically graphic shot of Donna eyeing Karl in the bathroom mirror as he cleans up his undercarriage.
The sequence is fairly tame, even tasteful, for this show.
The story moves forward, and we discover that Donna and Karl’s wedding is close, only Donna’s having second thoughts. It’s not that Karl isn’t a good guy, he’s just become predictable, as has their relationship. So she calls it off (in front of Karl’s family, no less) and the poor guy has a breakdown. She then moves in with her single friends Karen (Tanya Franks) and Louise (Rebekah Staton), and it’s back to single life for Donna, too. Still not content with the changes she’s made, she proceeds to quit her job as a marketing manager, only to have her boss tell her that she never was the marketing manager, as she was only qualified to be the PA to the marketing manager, and that even the raise she got six months ago with the promotion was also a mistake. This doesn’t stop her from trying to get a job as a marketing manager elsewhere.
Of the three girls in “Pulling,” Donna’s actually the level headed one, if that can be believed. Louise hasn’t gotten laid in several years. She’s a sweet, slightly plump, but not at all unattractive girl. About the best she can do is go for Karen’s leftovers. Late one night, after looking for love on the internet, she finds herself in a car with a stranger…and then a few more strangers show up, and begin circling the car, and unzipping their pants. (Don’t forget, “Pulling” is a comedy, and I’ll come back to that shortly.) And then there’s Karen. Oh dear. Remember the drunk girl that picked up Steve Carell in the bar and gave him a ride home in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin?” Imagine if that girl was fleshed out, given a backstory, a job, a motivation… In short, if that girl were given a character and spread out over six episodes, she would be Karen. Franks is utterly fearless in this series. She drinks to the point of vomiting and smokes like someone’s coming to confiscate her cigs. Pretty much any drug placed in front of her is an invitation to party. She fucks random strangers and doesn’t even remember doing it when she wakes up next to them in the morning. And she’s an elementary school teacher.
“Pulling” is dark, sometimes disturbing material, to put it mildly, probably due in large part to the fact that it’s a comedy. It would be very easy to come across it on TV and think you were watching a drama. This isn’t like any comedy I’ve seen on American TV in a while, although there were times it reminded me somewhat of IFC’s little seen “The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman,” although I think I laughed more at that show. But that’s not to discount this series, to imply that it’s inferior, or even to lead you to believe it’s not funny, because it is frequently riotously twisted. It’s actually a very good show, but I wonder how often one could sit through these episodes.
If you want to know more about your girlfriend than she’s willing to fess up, get this DVD. The back cover calls it “the dark side of ‘Sex and the City.’” Now that you’ve got her attention, slide the disc in and hit “play.” You might learn more about her through noting her reactions to these six episodes than weeks of thoughtful conversation could ever possibly deliver. (I used to use a similar tactic with “Blue Velvet,” but this test would likely be far more subversive.)
Special Features: There are commentary tracks for the first two episodes, a behind-the-scenes featurette, two very different sets of interviews (one labeled “If You Liked ‘Pulling’” and the other “If You Didn’t Like ‘Pulling’”), and a batch of deleted scenes. I came away from watching this material somewhat enlightened, as it seems even Horgan and co-creator Dennis Kelly don’t realize how dark this show is. To them, it’s just an exaggeration of their twenties, and yet they lived to write about it!