All Nikki (Esther Smith) and Jason (Rafe Spall) want is a baby—but it’s the one thing they just can’t have. How are they going to fill the next 50 years if they can’t start a family? They already went through The Sopranos in a weekend. After ruling out every other option, Nikki and Jason decide to adopt and are confronted by a world of bewildering new challenges. With their dysfunctional friends, screwball family, and chaotic lives, will the adoption panel agree that they’re ready to be parents?
Format: Web Series
Platform: Apple TV+
Movie Rated: 18+
Genre: Comedy / Love (RomCom)
What is the story about?
The show stars Rafe Spall as Jason, while Cuckoo star Esther Smith plays his partner Nikki. They are happy and hopelessly in love but despite having sex whenever and wherever Nikki is ovulating – including on the top deck of a London bus in the opening scene – they can't seem to make a baby. Meanwhile, all their thirty-something friends seem to be doing nothing but having babies while also holding down successful careers.
So they decide to adopt. And while the basic plot is simple, adoption isn't quite so simple. We have barely got to the end of the first episode and they have already been to a meeting and got anxious that after a flurry of paperwork and form-filling they a) won't be deemed suitable as parents and b) won't be able to adopt a cute ickle baby as they hoped, as most children up for adoption are a little bit older.
The show is not really original in its concept. Its eight-episode first season committed to the gruelling true-to-life intricacies of adoption proceedings and procedures, from applications and home evaluations to training classes and interviews have been explored in television shows such as This Is Us and Parenthood. Trying is sensitive and raw when it's not striving so hard to be sexy-cute. The show is heavily inspired by parenting comedy Catastrophe, about strangers who fall into a relationship after accidental insemination. However, this London-set dramcom invites us into the lives of an unmarried working-class couple who decide to pursue adoption after an expensive and futile round of IVF. The show relies a little too much on gay and ethnic jokes, but none of them is really mean. But it’s hardly the thing you expect to hear from a new show in 2020. Coming from middle-class white British people, it just sounds retrograde and tiresome. The real test of a show like this can you make laugh and honestly, it didn't make me laugh. Between the loathsome acoustic guitar score, the too-bright photography, and the unoriginal writing, this feels like the kind of thing that will be playing on your small screens without ever attracting a loyal following.
If you’re going to make a sitcom today, you’d better have a killer premise and a strong writing team. But Trying has neither.
Nikki aka Esther Smith plays the Manic Pixie Dream Girl — she's bijou and zany and eats noodles with her fingers because she cannot work chopsticks. But she's also steeped in anxiety, which manifests through her envy at other people's college degrees and high-level jobs that she thinks are much more impressive than her call-centre gig at a rental car company. Spall leans a little hard into what little characterization the script hands him. (That’s not his fault — it’s what you’re supposed to do as an actor.)
He comes across like a curmudgeonly and smug killjoy standing in the way of his impossibly optimistic and frankly equally as tiresome girlfriend. They talk about sex and relationships in ways no human would. The dialogue is so contrived that it really puts a lot of blame on the show's writers.
The show at times does seem to be making an earnest effort in making us feel sorry for the couple who can't have a baby.
For some strange reason, this show reminded me a lot of the 90s film Gharwali Baharwali and the sitcom Friends. The crux of the story which is about a couple trying every trick in the book to have a kid is so old and redundant. It is almost as if watching a 90s film or show. This plot seems way too unoriginal for a show in 2020. Also, the fact that the show uses sex as a plot to sell their story is just plain and lazy writing. I have learned an important lesson that never trust a show that opens with a sex scene, it usually goes downhill from there.
Do I recommend it?
Well, you have two more weeks of lockdown so you might as well watch it.