Every day feels like another resignation to the apocalypse and prestige television often, by obligation, performs as a bleak mirror. That’s why schmaltzy, feel-good comedies are so important: they swerve audiences out of insanity. The heart-warming AppleTV+ series Trying is an ideal retreat. Despite being inferior to its Apple sibling Ted Lasso, this parenting comedy thrives in equally familial embraces – at which even the most cynical and nihilistic critic can’t resist smiling and laughing and crying.
The series revels in the unlikely sunshine of Camden Lock in North London, where adoptive parents Jason (Rafe Spall) and Nikki (Esther Smith) finally have a pair of sprogs of their own: siblings Princess (Eden Togwell) and Tyler (Mickey McAnulty). Season three sees their skills and weaknesses as parents, many of which they figure out and improve along the way.
But the council never intended for Tyler to enter that family. Jason and Nikki have inadequate experience, and so the original plan was to split up the children. But because of Tyler's eccentric resourcefulness, sneaking into the boot at the end of season two, he's living with his sister again. Now, the council want him back and both parents have to prove they're capable of raising two kids.
Spall and Smith provide infectiously entertaining performances. Their characters never fall into cartoonish territory, despite the largely comfortable world around them. Jason and Nikki’s eclectic identities are key to their appeal: Nikki’s anxious and organised, but loves people; Jason’s laid-back and fun, but hates people. They volley with each other perfectly, resolving issues with aspirational teamwork. Well, mostly...
Jason and Nikki have accumulated an army of support via relatives and friends. Despite being a mostly white and middle-class cast of characters (strange for a series set in London), their support fills your heart and keeps on filling. A scene in the first episode sees Jason’s DIY-obsessed father (Phil Davis) gathering the troops to fight against the council, and it’s a glorious moment of fellowship.
Jason’s adulterous best friend Freddy (Oliver Chris) is trying to be a better person. Nikki’s older sister Karen (Sian Brooke) is becoming disillusioned. Karen’s pseudo-intellectual husband Scott (Darren Boyd) starts his own banking blog. And Nikki’s aloof work pal Jen (Robyn Cara) is facing the sack. Despite being small C-stories, the characters compel with their endlessly charming idiosyncracies.
Writer/creator Andy Wolton even achieves the seemingly impossible: making the more irritating personalities (like Freddy and Scott) intensely likeable without altering the core of their being. Often people can’t adjust themselves to a societally desirable standard, and Wolton makes that alright. No character is tedious to watch and there’s rarely anyone to hate.
Eden Togwell and Mickey McAnulty as Princess and Tyler. Photo: Apple
Trying comes at a curious time for parenting shows, most of which admirably and exhaustively show the worst parts of child-rearing. And while those more pessimistic experiences should be shown, the better aspects (which apparently exist) often became lost in the dark. This series brightens the landscape of the genre, prioritising the sweetest and more attractive parts of parenting.
Its comfy world is dangerously attractive – this critic wishes there was more to indulge and enjoy. Each episode is another chapter of love, care and humanistic generosity, soaked in delightful resolutions with just the right amount of cheese. It’s an underrated value in a TV show: sitting in front of a screen and feeling better about the human race. Not much can shut out the world right now, so grab Trying and hold it tight.
Trying season 3 is available on AppleTV+ from Friday 22 July, with episodes arriving weekly.
|What||Trying season 3, AppleTV+ review|
22 Jul 22 – 22 Jul 23, ON APPLE TV+
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