TRYING 2020): The Things I Liked…

Trying (2020), Esther Smith, Rafe Spall, Apple TV+
Trying (2020), Esther Smith, Rafe Spall, Apple TV+

There are three reasons I wanted to watch Apple TV+’s Trying, an eight-part comedy series about a young British couple’s journey to becoming adoptive parents. The first reason is I’ve always found the topic of adoption interesting. Secondly, even though I already love London, it’s always great to see the way others capture my favourite city on film. And last but not least, the trailer did definitely promise comedy, something I’m always ready for.

Episode one of Trying starts with the couple in question, Jason (Rafe Spall) and Nikki (Esther Smith) finding out that they’ll never be able to have their own biological children. Clearly an emotionally challenging time and the writers managed to squeeze some small moments of humour out of the scene and those that followed. The issue I encountered is that by the end of episode one, I wasn’t sure I was gong to make it to episode eight. The main reason being Smith’s character Nikki.

I’m sure that Nikki was supposed to be funny and adorable. However, for me, she registering as annoying. Especially in a scene that involves the throwing of two strangers’ phones into a large pond. It’s really the ‘acting before thinking’ aspect of Nikki’s character that proved irritating and unamusing. It may be that I just empathised more deeply than expected with the unsuspecting victims who have now been inconvenienced with having to get a new phone.

By the time the second episode ends, there’s no doubt in my mind that Nikki has a habit of not fully thinking things through before acting. Yet, oddly enough, I now find myself starting to like her. Something to do with seeing her relationship with her big sister made me warm to her. It’s likely that my change of heart has a little to do with having younger sisters myself; not that my sisters have Nikki’s problem, by the way. I digress.

Episode two is also when I realised that most of the amusing moments in Trying, at least for me anyway, are going to be courtesy of Jason and Nikki’s extended family and friend group, rather than the couple themselves.

Nikki and Jason are actually quite well matched.’
This is something I wasn’t sure about initially but then episode three, my favourite so far happened. It’s the one when Jason and Nikki meet other potential adopters and with amusing results. It’s also when the couple wake up to the idea that on paper, they’re very likely not the perfect candidates to become adoptive parents; plus a question mark starts to form around Jason’s commitment to it all. The kind of question mark that made me eager to find out if it would all work out in the end. Though, my eagerness didn’t have me thinking ‘This is so good I can’t wait to see how it ends. My reaction was more like ‘I’m in this now, I hope it stays as fun as this episode or gets better.’

During episode four, it became clear that Trying is a double and potentially triple, if not quadruple entendre when it comes to the series title. There’s of course ‘trying’ happening where Nikki and Jason are concerned but certainly also with pretty much every character. For me, the big highlight of episode four, and to be honest the whole series is Imelda Staunton’s character Penny, whose job it is to find out if Jason and Nikki tick enough boxes to get time with the adoption panel who decide whether they can adopt. Penny’s arrival really is a breath of fresh air because of the way Staunton expertly embodies the character. During episode four, it starts to seem as though Trying could easily be seen an undercover campaign to let potential adoptive parents in the UK know that they don’t have to be absolutely perfect to qualify.

Episodes five and six have Jason and Nikki learning more about parenting and themselves before the last two final, all-important episodes; of which seven is my favourite of the whole series. It’s when the couples family gather in their home for drinks and food, resulting in tense situations with entertaining comedic results. In this way confirming my previous hunch that the best scenes in Trying will be the one’s featuring Jason and Nikki’s extended family and / or friends. Then came the final episode when we learn whether or not Jason and Nikki get approval to become adoptive parents. It’s an adequately engaging episode that will make you smile, cringe (not in abad way) and perhaps also cry, especially when a particular speech happens.

I don’t personally know anyone who’s very familiar with the adoption process, so I don’t quite know if Jason and Nikki would be approved or not as adoptive parents in real life. Overall though, I think Trying is an OK show. I may have gone into it thinking and hoping that it would perhaps be ‘the Fleabag of adoption comedies’ but that was clearly far too high an expectation to set because Fleabag is comedy, pacing and writing excellence – if you ask me and many others. Whereas I can’t say that all the humour in Trying always hit as intended. Nor was each episode close to as great as the others.

Nevertheless though, the highlights do remain. Highlights such as episodes three and seven, the funniest of the eight. Staunton’s refreshing character Penny and the moving moments – particularly the one in episode eight during the speech in the panel interviews.

Give Trying a chance if you’re curious enough about the UK adoption process and the aforementioned comedy highlights. Otherwise, if you haven’t already, maybe watch Fleabag. It’s not about adoption but it’s British comedy greatness!

Happy Film Loving

G

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