Streaming TV’s double-edged sword means that there’s too much to watch — but always the chance to catch up down the road.
So while I’m a bit late to the game on “Trying,” which dropped in May on Apple TV+, I’m happy to report that stars Esther Smith and Rafe Spall make a winning team in this 10-episode British dramedy, which has been renewed for a second season.
Smith and Spall play couple Nikki and Jason who, after struggling to conceive a child, decide to go the adoption route. They live in a rented flat in London’s Camden Town: Nikki, enthusiastic and upbeat, works the phones at a car-rental agency and worries about her lack of higher education; the witty Jason teaches English as a second language at the local college (“a summer job” as it’s blithely described by several others).
Nikki and Jason realize, at least in a philosophical sense, that the adoption process could likely take a year or more with no guarantees, but they’re unprepared for the roller coaster emotional journey — which isn’t helped by their dysfunctional families and friends who aren’t exactly the standard-bearers for good parenting.
Imelda Staunton, Esther Smith and Rafe Spall in a scene from “Trying” on Apple TV+.Apple TV
Their closest friends, Erica and Freddy (Ophelia Lovibond and Oliver Chris), have two young kids and a troubled marriage. Nikki’s older sister, Karen (Sian Brooke), is dating obnoxious, unemployed know-it-all fop Scott (Darren Boyd). And the couples’ parents are either weighing in with unsolicited opinions, are highly critical of their kids or have simply checked out. Meanwhile, the local adoption community into which the couple plunges is judgy and catty, almost without exception.
Support, however, comes from an unlikely source: Penny (Imelda Staunton), who’s sent by the adoption agency to spend time with Nikki and Jason to judge their suitability as would-be parents. She is, at turns, encouraging, funny, empathetic and brutally honest. Stauton is a standout and I hope she returns for Season 2; if so, she should have the time. She will play Queen Elizabeth in Season 5 of “The Crown” — replacing Olivia Colman — but that’s not scheduled to premiere until 2022 (date undetermined).
But it’s Smith and Spall who provide the heart and soul of “Trying,” with a charming, easy on-screen chemistry that never feels forced. You’ll root for both of them through their trials, tribulations and triumphs and, as the season progresses, will see how Nikki’s cheeriness masks a deep insecurity, while Jason’s subtle sense of humor hides his own doubts and fears. The writing by series creator Andy Wolton is clever and (at times) heartfelt, and all the supporting characters fit their bills nicely (you might remember Boyd as double agent Frank Haleton from “Killing Eve.”)
“Trying” was the first British series given the green light by Apple TV+. If it’s quality is any indication, it certainly won’t be the last.