Though the British television comedy Pulling only survived two years on BBC Three, the first season is now available on DVD in North America from MPI Home Video, and an Americanized remake is in pre-production at ABC. Pulling is to Sex and the City what Married with Children was to Father Knows Best: a darker, poorer, coarser re-imagining of an iconic myth. As Married with Children recast the dream of a perfect upper-middle-class family life into the nightmare of a dysfunctional working-class family, so does Pulling refashion the vision of urban, post-feminist promiscuity from one of upper-middle-class professional women acculturated to flashy consumerism to one of bottom-rung dead-enders boozing away their twenties and thirties.
Co-writer and producer Sharon Horgan plays the principal lead Donna, a thirty-year-old talentless cubicle dweller who in episode one dumps her fiancée of five years to reenter the casual dating game. Donna's posse consists of Karen (Tanya Franks), an alcoholic grade-school teacher, and Louise (Rebekah Staton), a sexually-frustrated café waitress. The three share a squalid row house from which they make their nightly drunken and depressed forays into shabby South-East London.
The plotline that threads through season one is whether Donna will return to her ex-fiancée Karl (Cavan Clerkin), but the likelihood of a happy reunion is never very great given the series' theme. Of more consequence are the episodes which clearly dispel any hope that these women have for rising above their socioeconomic station - there is no advancement, either earned or lucky, in the offing for any of the protagonists. During one of their many nights out drinking, which would conclude with Donna blacking out and waking up in bed with a bartender, Karen explained the secret to enjoying the life of a single woman without prospects: "You have to be drunk. That's how the magic works; that's how you turn a toilet into a tiara."
Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1 aspect ratio), this release of Pulling: the Complete First Season is interlaced with soft focus and loss of detail due, at least in part, to a weak PAL-to-NTSC transfer.
The 2.0 DD audio mix is acceptable for a television comedy. Although there's not much dynamism to the mix, the dialogue is clear. Though the East-end London accents are not especially heavy, optional English subtitles are also provided.
Extras consist of two episode audio commentaries with Sharon Horgan, co-writer Denis Kelly, producer Phil Bowker, and director Tristram Shapeero, interviews with cast and crew (17 min.), a behind-the-scenes featurette (7 min.), and deleted scenes (10 min.).
With its theme firmly focused on boozing, female bonding, and casual sex from a woman's perspective, Pulling will appeal more strongly to female viewers than male, yet the comedy is sufficiently dark to bring in some men who'd never sit still for an episode of Sex and the City.
Though this release of Pulling: the Complete First Season is fine for casual consumption, collectors able to play R-2 PAL discs would probably do better in terms of picture quality to buy the original British release. At the time of this review, the complete series of Pulling was available from Amazon UK for less than £15.