Apple TV+ family comedy Trying hits a snag or two this week, as Jason and Scott both realize they’re running out of road before a fall.
Jason needs money if he wants to pay for the house he’s been renting, which otherwise will be sold out from under him at any minute. Scott needs to make enough money to pay for Karen’s incoming baby, or she’ll continue looking at him as the fatuous loser with his head in the clouds that the show has more than shown us that he is.
On top of that, the adoptees’ grandmother is gunning for custody and she’s willing to fight dirty. Good, I say. This show needs some actual tragedy.
Trying recap: ‘Feelings Are the Worst’
Season 3, episode 6: In this week’s episode, entitled “Feelings Are the Worst,” Nikki (played by Esther Smith) and Jason (Rafe Spall) are in crisis. Nikki accidentally opened up to Bev (Clare Higgins), Princess (Eden Togwell) and Tyler’s (Mickey McAnulty) crazy grandmother, and that’s not good.
Nikki and Jason tell Noah (Karl Collins), their adoption agency liaison, hoping for advice, but he doesn’t have much. Clearly, Bev wants some kind of edge over them, so she can maybe do them some harm during the adoption hearing.
Maybe Bev was trying to listen in to their lives, gather information that will make them seem like bad parents, and then custody might revert to her? This is all speculation, but it’s not good is it? The idea of someone with a legitimate claim to the kids getting back into their lives?
Now Nikki’s seeing Bev everywhere, paranoid about losing her adopted children. In fact, Nikki shoplifts by accident, running out of the shop with an armful of merchandise because she thinks Bev is following her.
No, Scott’s book is not satire
Meanwhile, Karen (Sian Brooke) and Scott (Darren Boyd) are in a microcrisis, too. Scott’s quit his job after being told he might have a book deal, which makes Karen feel even more insecure about the future of their on-the-way child.
Scott is crestfallen when he meets his publisher and they think he wrote his book as a joke in character. He all but breaks down when he tells them that he meant every word, that the book wasn’t satire, and that he really is the pompous windbag they thought he was pretending to be.
He leaves despondent, and things get even worse when Jason calls him. Jason had given him 12 grand to put into the market, hoping to double his investment to afford his house, but so far Scott’s lost a grand. Jason screams at him, telling him he has no idea what it’s like to have kids to feed. So Scott turns back around and accepts the offer from the publisher.
Funeral for a friend
And the crises don’t stop there. Back at home, Tyler must say goodbye to his favorite toy, a lamp, with a little help from Jason, who has a heart-to-heart with the boy about the impermanence of things.
Jason tries to throw away the lamp, but feels bad so he calls his dad (Phil Davis) over to help him put it back together. This doesn’t work, so they throw the lamp a funeral.
Afterward, they get a call from Noah, who delivers some unpleasant news. Seems that earlier that day, Jason saw Bev crying at a bus stop and went over to chat with her to make her feel better about losing her grandkids. And, in the course of consoling her, he opened up about the fact that he put all their savings on the stock market, and unless a miracle happens they’re going to lose their home.
Turns out Bev was conniving and evil, as Nikki suggested. (Of course she is — she’s a scheming criminal below the poverty line. On Trying. she might as well have a swastika tattoo).
Ham-handed musical choices
I know that I’m allergic to all of the textural stuff on this show but I need you to understand that under no circumstances should an episode end with a husband and wife revealing that one of them has betrayed the other and then a treacly pop tune comes on the soundtrack with the opening lyrics, “I thought that we were a team, each of us bringing half the dream!”
I mean, if you’re doing that, just make the show a musical, don’t half-ass it and make it sound like there’s some god-awful MOR group hiding in the bushes writing songs about the piffling existence of two go-nowhere dullards.
What’s the thinking here? Did the writers think we didn’t know that when Nikki looks at Jason and asks, “Hey, did you just ruin our lives?” it means that things are going badly? Do they think this is so poorly telegraphed by the sledgehammer writing and earnest performances that they also need Britain’s most on-the-nose songwriter to get in there and mop up after the cast and crew? Yikes.
… and finally, a ‘villain’
I was not at all surprised to see the showrunners turn crass Bev, the street-walking schemer, into an actual villain. Anyone who doesn’t look like they should be in a car commercial about family values on this show is inherently evil, and needs to be taught to be more down-to-earth and loving.
I’m over this, and I’m over the fact that Apple TV+ went from releasing all the episodes of Trying on the same day to withholding episodes for a week at a time, which means I have to think about these people for much longer than the length of one piece.
I like my job. I love my job. But on days like this, reviewing shows like this, I sometimes wonder why I didn’t go to law school.
Watch Trying on Apple TV+
New episodes of Trying season 3 arrive each Friday.
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 author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.