Apple TV+ review: Trying
Ivan Radford | On 03, May 2020
Apple TV+ makes its first foray onto British soil this weekend with Trying, a comedy about a couple trying to have a baby – or, more accurately, failing to have a baby. The show’s title hangs in the air, almost as a taunt, as what begins as a story of two adults attempting to conceive grows into a story of two adults attempting to move on from that idea. Instead, they begin the process of applying for adoption – a whole new emotional rollercoaster that’s no simpler or easier.
Rafe Spall and Esther Smith star as Jason and Nikki, an English-as-a-foreign-language teacher and a car hire company employee respectively. Neither of them are hugely smart, neither of them are very well off, and neither of them have much experience with kids. But they are, fortunately, very likeable nonetheless, and a large part of that is Spall and Smith’s natural chemistry. They make each other laugh in a way that feels like the characters want to make each other laugh, and pick up on each other’s faults in a way that feels like they know them only too well. A show about a couple lives and dies on its central pairing and Trying gets that crucial step absolutely right.
The main challenge the show faces, though, is that a lot of other, similar shows have also got that pairing right before, from Channel 4’s masterful Catastrophe to Sky’s Breeders. Trying lacks the sarcastic honesty and dark edginess of both, and often goes for stretches without many belly laughs, but it has a sweetness that keeps you charmed enough to tune in; for better and for worse, Jason and Nikki are nice to spend time with, as they find themselves out of water at a picnic for potential adopters and barely struggle through trying to babysit someone else’s children. (A trip to the London Dungeons will resonate with any adult who has attempted that as a day out.)
Some of the supporting ensemble feel more caricatured than the central nuanced partnership – although Darren Boyd as the boyfriend of Nikki’s sister is hilariously loathsome – but writer Andy Wolton still mines unexpected emotion from the briefest of encounters with secondary players. Cush Jumbo, in particular, as Jacob’s ex, Jane, is responsible for some wonderful moments of heartbreaking clarity, while Imelda Staunton is having a ball as the pair’s social worker.
The result is a show that increasingly finds its identity and pace as it goes on, building to a surprisingly moving appointment with the adoption panel. It’s an episode that will bring you to tears with its heartfelt honesty, and leaves you looking forward to a hopeful second season for the show to really grow into its own. At its heart, it’s a series about two people who mean well – they’re trying. And that’s what matters.
Trying is available on Apple TV+, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, with a 7-day free trial. New episodes arrive every Friday.