The problem with relationship comedies is that they are frequently hamstrung by determined attempts to repeat the mistakes of previous efforts. Cold Feet was mired in eye-rolling long-term relationshit issues and Sex and the City pedalled pseudo-insights and vacuous truisms as if they were profound. And as most relationship dramas end up like either one or the other of those, I generally have low expectations when a new one turns up. BBC3‘s Pulling is a vehicle for the Irish comedy writer/performer Sharon Horgan, who last blipped on my radar appearing on the despicable Friday Night Project (replaced in series two by the two biggest wankers on telly Alan Carr and Justin Lee Collins – how bad do you have to be for that happen? ). She has also contributed to the even more offensive Catherine Tate show so things aren’t looking good for her as I read down her CV. However, she’s also written for the marvellous Monkey Dust so that’s enough to get her a hung jury at least for now.
"Cold Feet was mired in eye-rolling long-term relationshit issues and Sex and the City pedalled pseudo-insights and vacuous truisms as if they were profound."
Pulling kicks off with Horgan’s character Donna all set to tie the knot with nice guy fiancé Karl (Cavan Clerkin). But as the nightmare of a lifelong relationshit kicks in she calls off the wedding with just days to spare and moves in with her friends romantic flagcracker Louise (Rebekah Staton) and alcoholic sex pest Karen (Tanya Franks). Horgan does exasperation very well which is just as well as it’s pretty much a permanent state for her character. Drunken lush Karen, on the other hand, spews venom at everyone in her path but the only person she really hates is herself while Louise bounces back from every dating disappointment with heroically bright-eyed and wholly unjustified optimism.
“‘You’re not embarrassed are you?’ asks her conquest. ‘No, not embarrassed – just ashamed’ she replies. Well, that’s fair enough.”
There’s a strong farcical feel to events in Pulling. Donna meets the man of her dreams at a nightclub but ends up sleeping with a gay man the same night. "You’re not embarrassed are you?" asks her conquest as she tries to sneak him out the bathroom window in the morning. "No, not embarrassed – just ashamed" she replies. Well, that’s fair enough.
Pulling has been consistently funny from the off with spirited performances from the three leads and the writing (from Horgan and writing partner Dennis Kelly) crackles with wit and bad intention. The obvious tension between the romantic Louise and the cynic Karen is handled deftly and never feels like a cliche. Donna is a convincing everywoman character – she tries to the right thing but her own selfishness, weakness and insecurity undermine everything she does. She never intends to hurt Karl but she ends up driving him to attempt suicide through her very own brand of emotional cluelessness.
"It’s funny because the premise is strong, the performances work and the bright, original writing has an edge."
When you look at the abysmal horseshit BBC1 puts out under the label of situation comedy and comedy-drama you wonder how BBC3 can so consistently outperform its senior partner with a fraction of the budget. BBC3 aims for a twentysomething demographic but it’s not funny because it has scenes in nightclubs and people saying fuck it’s because the premise is strong, the performances work and the bright, original writing has an edge. But rather like the characters in Pulling, BBC1 just can’t seem to get it right.
The best thing about it: Sharon Horgan. Forgiven for that Catherine Tate business.
The worse thing about it: Karen seems likely to turn into a tedious sweary caricature rather like how This Life‘s Anna ended up.
The verdict on Pulling : Get your coat love – you’ve pulled
Marks out of 10: 8