Trying returns for a second unbearable blast of blandness [Apple TV+ review]

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There is not nearly enough Imelda Staunton on this season of Trying
We don't get nearly enough Imelda Staunton this season.
Photo: Apple TV+

No one’s favorite young parents-to-be return for another go-round in Trying, the maddening Apple TV+ show about the travails of a British couple who really want children.

Unfortunately, the show’s second season, which debuts Friday, proves just as exhausting and depressing as its first.

Trying Season 2 review

I hated Trying basically from the moment I saw the first teaser for its first season. The twinkly, mandolin-scored odyssey of upper-middle-class yuppies who want to have a kid struck me as the safest and least vital premise for a sitcom since … I don’t know, Archie Bunker’s Place?

Did people really want milquetoast comedy high jinks about a family without financial hardships whose only real obstacle is they can’t get pregnant? Don’t movies and TV shows with the same premise get green-lit every day of the week? Why this one?

So admittedly, I walked into this Ikea showroom of a television show with low expectations but even those weren’t met. The jokes were fourth-hand. The performers weren’t particularly charming, and certainly didn’t help the material feel any fresher. All the characters and situations introduced to seem more annoying than the protagonists all felt forced and shticky.

Even the colors, sounds, clothes and faces were all bland, bland, bland. If you opened a Land’s End catalog and played the audio from any given episode of Full House, you’d have Trying’s number.

Nobody asked me

Trying review: Esther Smith and Rafe Spall keep on keeping on in the show's second season on Apple TV+.
Esther Smith and Rafe Spall keep on keeping on in the show’s second season.
Photo: Apple TV+

But because I am not anyone’s go-to for questions about the viability or relative entertainment value of any given show, now we’ve got season two of Trying. And the show’s creator and writer, Andy Wolton, did not fix or change a single thing.

The heroes (played by Rafe Spall and Esther Smith) have moved along in the adoption phase to the point where they’re now meeting children and pinning their hopes and dreams to a little girl literally named Princess (Eden Togwell).

There are problems, of course. Their friends and family are all having relationship issues and providing bad examples for them as parents. And, despite the fact that our heroes are the least compelling characters on the show, every episode they renew their belief that they’re the most qualified parents in this show’s orbit.

Sure. Whatever. Who cares?

Each episode of Trying ends with an assault on the eardrums in the form of a plot-specific song by unbearably precious acoustic artist Maisie Peters that makes me so crazy I want to scream. Every emotion and narrative development is broadcast from down the street. There are no surprises in Trying, and there is never anything interesting to look at.

What year is it?

Spall isn’t a bad actor, or even an unlikable one, but this show writes his character consistently as someone who can just barely tolerate the wife with whom he’s trying to start a family. That would make him totally unsympathetic, but she’s not really worth any more attention than he pays her.

They’re both boring and petty people. Smith’s heroine is unbearably precious about absolutely everything. And the writers keep giving her completely unconvincing moral high ground over the people around her.

At one point, in what’s meant to be a moment of comic catharsis, she destroys Spall’s dead grandmother’s shed with a shovel, screaming about everything that makes her mad, including, “People who say ‘Prosecco O’Clock.'” (The U.K.’s answer to Wine O’Clock, I guess?)

Now … look … sure, that kind of personality type is exactly as annoying as the show says it is. But there is absolutely no meaningful distinction between Smith’s character (who sells her husband’s bicycle to stop him from having an accident on it and doesn’t tell him she did it because she thinks she’s in the right) and the sort of hypothetical person she’s mad at.

If you saw her at brunch, you, too, would think her the kind of person who says, “Prosecco O’Clock.” Furthermore, it’s clear that the writers think this transgression really is something worth getting upset about. And that means they really did buy fully into this version of unspeakable middle-class privilege. And that they think this is all worth an audience’s time.

That should tell you everything you need to know about Trying if you were even for a moment on the fence about watching it.

Trying on Apple TV+

The second season of Trying premieres May 21 on Apple TV+.

Rated: TV-14

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.