The anti-heroines of Pulling drink constantly, smoke, do drugs, sleep around, and hate each other — all to a cartoonish degree. Why the un-ladylike Britcom Pulling, and its creator Sharon Horgan should give us hope for the future of comedy.
Last week I was introduced to the holy grail of TV shows: a sitcom created by and starring women that is actually hilarious — and to both sexes! After devouring every episode of the critically acclaimed but sadly canceled BBC 3 Britcom Pulling (the second series of which just became available in the states), I came away not only with an exciting thing to share with friends, but also a new hero (series co-creator and star Sharon Horgan - the real person, not her character) and a reinvigorated optimism about the future of comedy. I'm not even exaggerating!
The series begins with Donna (Catherine Keener-esque Horgan), giving her fiance a disinterested handjob. She then calls off their wedding at the last moment, causing him to beg, vomit, and attempt suicide. Donna moves in with her frenemies, the wildly alcoholic Karen (Tanya Franks) and the dim, childlike Louise (Rebecca Staton). What ensues as these three intensely self-absorbed and irreverent characters navigate their late 20s and early 30s makes up the rest of the series.
It's impossible to describe Pulling without mentioning Sex And The City (and its creators have openly said that the show was designed as an anti-SATC), so let's get that out of the way: Pulling is like Sex And The City, but funny. Pulling is like Sex And The City, but dark, pessimistic, nihilistic, totally not uplifting, and un-romantic, featuring characters you would never want to know or emulate in real life, but whose fantastically shocking behavior will often remind you of your own darker moments taken to extremes. It's actually not like SATC at all aside from the "women friends" skeleton — it's more like Curb Your Enthusiasm than anything else — any moment of sentimentality or even decency on this show is immediately revealed to be false. There are no role models here, so don't even look, but as one reviewer put it: "There is, I'd wager, a bit of Donna in all of us. (If there isn't, I don't want to know you.)" In life and in love, these characters just can't catch a break, and none of them deserve one. Here's a representative example: in one episode, facing an outrageous veterinary bill, Karen and Louise kill a cat. With a brick. They must have had a lot of fun with the inherent metaphor in that (smash those stereotypes!) Here are a few clips from the series:
Donna breaks up with Karl in a scene more awkward than the one in Forgetting Sarah Marshall:
Donna, desperate to impress the popular girl from her school days, takes her back to her apartment:
Karen, a kindergarten teacher, has a memorable meeting at a grocery store:
There's also a 1-hour finale special that aired in the UK in May but isn't yet available here. ABC is planning a U.S. version of Pulling which will probably suck (you just can't get away with that kind of humor here), but the good news is Sharon Horgan is currently writing a pilot for HBO, and will co-star with Will Arnett, David Cross and Spike Jonze in the upcoming UK series The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. And she has now earned her place alongside Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman, Carrie Fisher, and Mindy Kaling as an invitee to my own personal fantasy slumber party (everyone has one of those, right?). Welcome!