‘Trying’ is a hilariously heartwarming look at infertility, adoption on Apple TV+

“Trying” drops Episode 4 of Season 2 this Friday on Apple TV+.

WTOP's Jason Fraley reviews 'Trying' on Apple TV+

The CDC says one in 10 women ages 15-44 has trouble getting or staying pregnant.

Such infertility is tackled in heartwarming fashion in the new sitcom “Trying,” a winning partnership between the BBC and Apple, dropping new episodes Fridays on Apple TV+.

The series follows a London couple, Jason and Nikki, who desperately want to become parents. After the grief of many failed attempts, they ultimately decide to adopt, only to face new challenges in the complex adoption process, while juggling their respective day jobs as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher and customer service phone rep.

The show would not work if not for the chemistry of the central couple. Rafe Spall (“The Big Short”) and Esther Smith (“Funny Valentines”) are totally believable in their highs and lows, playing off each other’s comedic timing for witty banter, then complementing each other’s pain during rapid-fire arguments. Sometimes both happen simultaneously.

They hang out with their best friends, Erica (Ophelia Lovibond) and Freddy (Oliver Chris), the former suffering from postpartum depression; the latter stuck in a sleazy midlife crisis. They also tolerate Nikki’s insecure sister Karen (Sian Brooke), who considers marrying her aloof boyfriend Scott (Darren Boyd), a wannabe author of the “next great American novel.”

Still, the real standout is Imelda Staunton, best known as Dolores Umbridge in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (2007). In “Trying,” she plays adoption agent Penny, who shifts from their harshest judge to their biggest fan. They fear she’ll be Billie Whitelaw in “The Omen” (1976), but they instead get Julie Andrews in “Mary Poppins” (1964).

Creator Andy Wolton (“The Great Travel Hack”) superbly pens every episode, delivering clever cliffhangers that double as splashy comedy buttons before cutting to black.

Rather than settling for the low-hanging fruit of obvious plot points (i.e. suddenly getting pregnant or easily adopting), Wolton invents numerous complications to raise the stakes with story beats as we go along for the ride of this couple’s comically frustrating journey.

The creativity peaks as Nikki confronts Jason during a party scene with guests downstairs. We won’t spoil what the argument is about, but Nikki thinks they’re talking about one thing and Jason thinks they’re talking about another. It takes great writing to make each line of dialogue carry a double meaning so that it can justifiably read two polar opposite ways.

Meanwhile, director Jim O’Hanlon (“Catastrophe”) playfully uses the camera, starting scenes by tilting up from coffee table reflections, then having Jason and Nikki discuss “gender norms” as they pass two billboards where the female image says, “Look your best,” while the male image says, “Push your limits.” Mise-en-scène in a sitcom, baby!

I don’t use the word “baby” lightly. Smack dab in the middle of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, infertility is a heartbreaking process that affects more people than you think: your own family members, friends, colleagues, and yes, even your favorite entertainment reporters.

Few things are as tragic as yearning to become a parent, only for the universe to block every attempt, carrying parental capacity with nowhere to give it, forcing loving couples into shady groves on the outskirts of sunny fields of dreams, hopes and possibilities.

Until then, we keep on “Trying.”

4.5 stars

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up