The Big Picture
- Apple TV+ has earned a reputation for bringing us prestige TV with shows like The Morning Show and Ted Lasso.
- The second and third seasons of Ted Lasso lacked the organic edge that made the first season so successful.
- Trying, a lesser-known Apple TV+ series, offers a hidden gem of feel-good comedy that explores the process of adoption with humor and heart.
By making waves with its star-studded catalog during the COVID-19 pandemic, Apple TV+ has earned a reputation for itself as a home for prestige TV. Much like HBO before it, this streamer has excelled in bringing us dramas and comedies alike, with some of them reaching enviable critical acclaim. The Morning Show, Severance, and most recently, Masters of the Air have all proven that Apple TV+ takes its various drama styles seriously, while its vast comedy slate has been almost entirely overshadowed by the major success of Ted Lasso. Ted Lasso was co-created by Scrubs‘ Bill Lawrence and stars Jason Sudeikis as the eponymous hero; an American Football coach hired by an English Association Football team. In an act of revenge against her ex-husband and the club’s ex-owner, it’s revealed that Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) hired Ted to run the team into the ground, but his optimism teaches her a lesson or two in letting go and rising above.
As an American show fueled by British influences, Ted Lasso offered the locked-down world of 2020 the same kind of positivity one might get from The Great British Bake Off. The first season was a major hit at the right time for Apple TV+, but its second and third seasons lacked the organic edge that its characters brought to the first season. Whereas similar feel-good comedies such as After Life opted for its hero to relearn the same lesson every season in order to continue the antics, Ted Lasso decided to keep the characters largely conflict-free after their problems had been solved in the Season 1 climax. This resulted in its once-complex characters becoming aimless, and the more antagonistic minor characters who influenced the clashes from afar becoming mustache-twirling villains. In short, it lost what it had initially done so brilliantly; balanced absurd comedy with nuanced and grounded stories. To see it done right though, you need look no further than this British comedy on Apple TV+.
All Jason and Nikki want is a baby, but it’s the one thing they just can’t have. So, they decide to adopt. With their dysfunctional friends, screwball family and chaotic lives will the adoption panel think they’re ready to be parents?
- Release Date
- Andy Wolton
‘Trying’ Is Apple TV+’s Hidden Feel-Good Comedy Gem
Trying, a lesser-known Apple TV+ series, actually premiered on the streamer three months prior to Ted Lasso‘s first season, and has continued for the same number of seasons as Ted Lasso so far. The series stars Black Mirror “White Christmas” alums Esther Smith and Rafe Spall as Nikki and Jason respectively, a 30-something couple trying for a baby. Very quickly, the show becomes less about the literal “trying” and more about the process of adoption, as supported by their hilarious ensemble of friends and family. Much like Ted Lasso‘s first season, this show’s drama is built into the premise naturally, freeing its characters to embody the uplifting spirit and humor needed to carry them through. Expertly, the show also refuses to shy away from the internal struggles this situation provides, but every episode ends with a feel-good message of love, support, and forgiveness.
The dramatic stress of their adoption process and all its pressures also lends itself brilliantly to its situational comedy side. Their counselor throughout the process is played by the legendary Imelda Staunton, and although her character Penny is refreshingly encouraging for a person in her position, that brings even bigger stakes to her demands, doubling the reasons Nikki and Jason don’t want to let her down. After all, who would want to make an enemy of Dolores Umbridge? Somehow, this show walks its tightrope perfectly, showing the adoption process and all its absurdity for what it is, never heightening the already-enormous stakes for the sake of entertainment. Trying mirrors the tone of shows like Catastrophe, while its ensemble cast offers up subplots and personalities worthy of Gavin and Stacey.
‘Trying’s Ensemble Cast Is One of the Best on TV Today
As well as Spall, Smith, and Staunton, Trying also features the couple’s respective family and friends. Jason’s best friend Freddy is played by Oliver Chris, whose talent for embodying entitled white-collar characters offers a bite to the dialogue that could never be delivered by Nikki and Jason. Freddy is given a redemption arc over time after multiple mistakes within his marriage to Erica (Guardians of the Galaxy and Minx‘s Ophelia Lovibond). The couple serve as a comparative relationship to the main couple, as does Nikki’s reserved sister Karen (Siân Brooke) and her husband Scott (Darren Boyd). Boyd is a veteran of British TV comedy by now, having starred in Dirk Gently, Spy, and The Outlaws, and brings some of the more consistent laughs to the show, as Scott desperately seeks the lifestyle of a famous writer despite his lack of talent.
Jason’s parents, Vic (Phil Davis) and Sandra (Paula Wilcox), represent a recognizable generation of certain attitudes. Vic’s inability to express his emotions verbally makes sense of Jason’s similar quirk, but both father and son prove that actions speak louder than words time and time again. Expect tear-jerker endings when Jason’s dad Vic is around. Nikki must deal with her own parents (Marian McLoughlin and Roderick Smith) as well as her younger colleague Jen (Robyn Cara), who constantly reminds Nikki that youth is wasted on the young. The underappreciated star of Trying, however, is London’s Camden Town. This hub of music, food, and culture is truly celebrated throughout the series as the setting for the story and does for Camden what Ted Lasso did for Richmond. For London lovers and Anglophiles, Trying should be your real entry point.
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‘Trying’s Longevity Puts ’Ted Lasso’ To Shame
As mentioned, Nikki and Jason stop “trying” for a biological baby fairly soon in the show, but that doesn’t mean Trying left its premise. The true meaning of the show’s title becomes clear early on and even offers longevity to this slice-of-life show that Ted Lasso couldn’t. The first season is about the couple being approved as suitable adoptive parents by the committee. This premise naturally invites stories surrounding self-worth and self-consciousness. While even the best parents admit to not knowing what they’re doing at first, how can people in Nikki and Jason’s position convince a room of professionals that they are perfect parents, while also dealing with the everyday issues that come from being human? But, as Staunton’s Penny explains to them, it’s not about being perfect. It’s about trying: “I know it’s hard. It’s a mammoth undertaking. And I should know, I’ve brought up two happy, friendly, well-adjusted children… out of four!”
The second season is about trying to get paired with a child in the competitive world of adoption. It’s hard not to compare yourself to others when in direct competition, but Nikki and Jason’s personal doubts and shortcomings inevitably come to the fore when, not only do they need to convince a committee they’re suitable, but now they need to convince them they’re the most suitable! After becoming besotted with a young girl, Nikki and Jason settle for fostering while they wait for adoption approval, and in a show of commitment, they also take on the girl’s little brother. The story continues into its third season, and they try to love their new children as much as possible before they potentially get adopted by more “suitable” parents in the future.
As Rafe Spall himself told Collider, “The thing about this show is that it’s about people being good to each other.” He added, “In the situation we’re all in now, that’s extremely prescient. Something that we’ve all become astutely aware of is altruism, kindness, community, and goodness. I’m really pleased to be putting a show out there, which is a force for good. A lot of the stuff that we consume is about people being mean or violent or destructive or manipulative or vindictive to one another. There’s none of that, in this show. It’s just about people being good and trying to get by. They’re good, honest people, which I think is what most of the world is.”
Trying is available to stream on Apple TV+ in the U.S.
Watch on Apple TV+