Fans of ukuleles, whistling and jokes about eating disorders will be thrilled by the return of Trying, the British sitcom about a couple (Rafe Spall and Esther Smith) attempting to adopt a child. The second series resumes with Jason and Nikki seeking a match from the adoption agency, while trying to get best mate Freddy (Oliver Chris) to move out of their flat and Nikki’s sister Karen (Sian Brooke) prepares for her wedding.
In an era of TV/streaming shows celebrating diversity, Andy Wolton’s programme feels like something of a throwback to a Richard Curtis-style period when London was populated entirely by white people, i.e. never. Apple TV Plus’ first European original is conceived with a tourist’s eye view of the city, where the supposedly cash-strapped couple rent a lovely loft apartment in what they laughably call “the scruffy end of Camden”.
Nowhere is the series’ conservatism more pronounced than its adherence to gender stereotypes, with the first episode devoted to Nikki (the emotional one) wanting to adopt a girl and Jason (the blokey one) favouring a boy. Where acerbic parenting comedy Catastrophe (also directed by Jim O’Hanlon) benefitted from the perspective of its male and female writers, this show is always very obviously written by a man.
The second episode indulges the sitcom cliché of wedding dress shopping, whereby the resolutely not-bothered-about-weddings Karen is reduced to tears upon finding the perfect gown. We see this trope all the time and it never stops being patronising, suggesting that women who claim ambivalence towards weddings are simply deluding themselves and ultimately all want the same thing whether they think they do or not.
Of course the comedy landscape can run the ideological gamut and fans of the first series will enjoy more of the same, though they might find their patience tested when characters jump into a canal – or see the reveal coming when Jason and Nikki ask the wrong child to come home with them. It is hard to escape the sense that all these ideas have been used in better programmes, especially when actors from those sitcoms pop up, such as Joe Wilkinson (Him & Her) and Ophelia Lovibond (Feel Good).
These are shows about flawed people who feel real where Jason and Nikki just feel trying, uncritically investing all their hopes and dreams on the one objective; the opposite message of the more interesting Feel Good, which explores the folly of pinning your happiness on another person. Trying never gives us much reason to root for its protagonists beyond their being the kind of people who traditionally ought to have a baby, an insular and unreflective worldview for a work that should be called “Wanting”.
Trying 2 is released on Apple TV+ on 21st May 2021.
Watch the trailer for Trying 2 here: