Trying: The BRWC Review. By Alif Majeed.
You always tend to be wary when a show tries to start with a loud bang by shocking the audience to get their attention. And Trying is a show that begins with a loud firecracker of a beginning where the leads (Jason and Nikki, a winning Rafe Spall and Esther Smith) realising that her monthly pregnancy cycle is almost over, need to have sex right then. The fact that they are on a public bus is not a concern for the desperate couple who decide to do it right there caution be damned. It is the kind of cheat used to start the show with a gag to grab eyeballs.
It also grates how it tries to say something is cute in the show. Only instead of using a laugh track like a multi-camera show, Trying tries to substitute that by using cutesy upbeat music on cue as if to say, “Awe, look at us. So cute.” But even if the cutesy track gets annoying after a point and it still tries too hard to get us to like it for being charming and funny, it almost doesn’t need that in the first place. The good thing about Trying is that for most parts of its short first season, it manages to keep your attention even though it uses several tactics to make you try to really like it. And that track does grow on you after a while the same way the characters do.
Jason and Nikki are the typical new-generation couple who would probably be well loved all across the board when they were young, and when their futures were unclear. But then you realize that ten years later, they still haven’t grown up and haven’t managed to change their inherent immature nature. (it was a horrifying gut punch when I first watched Clerks 2 realized that they were still in the same store doing the same thing). Worried of their predicament, it starts to nag them (Nikki more so than Jason), and they decide that they need a child. It is scary that both seem to be blissfully unaware, at least in the beginning, as to why they are doing it instead of wanting a child.
Nikki is the girlfriend that everyone would want until you realize that years have passed, and all the cute things that you fell for in the first place becomes troublingly worrying. She is painfully aware of what makes her character cute and lovable, which worries her when she realizes that age might have caught up with her. Especially moments when she worries about her banal job and how people her age has moved way past her up the food chain. (“We are not doing a job we love but a job we are stuck in”) But Esther Smith infuses a bucket load of charm into the Nikki that you still might want to continue the ride with her.
Rafe Spall, who often seems to be associated with the role of a third wheel or a “Baxter” who gets dumped or fired by the end, finally gets a leading man role and makes full use of the opportunity. More at peace with the fact that age has caught up with him, (“Am old. I can do three things, and then I get tired.”), he takes up the calm, cool boyfriend role who always has a quip to defuse the situation quite well. You also feel for him when his calm exterior occasionally cracks and gets overwhelmed by their decision that they are so ill-equipped to handle (“You are afraid of everything so am not allowed to be afraid of anything?”)
Another important character in the show is Imelda Staunton, who plays the Penny, the child worker on their case. Penny reminds you of that sweet elderly old relative of yours who would gently manipulate you into doing something for them without you even figuring the manipulation until its too late. And Imelda Staunton does play the character with the right amount of playfulness that it is hard to figure out where her loyalty lies.
There is also the mandatory Harry met Sally best friend couple played by Ophelia Lovibond and Oliver Chris. Except imagine if Carrie Fischer and Bruno Kirby were married for a few years now. And their conversations are mostly about dealing with their children. As likable and effortless as they are in their roles, they just come across as the typical best friend couple who are used as springboards or projections to mirror or crystalize the lead’s situation.
There is also a When Harry met Sally kind of interview sequences in the show. And the bus scene that happens at the beginning strongly reminds you of that iconic orgasm scene between Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, complete with an old lady as a witness to it.
That’s the thing about Trying. It does thread the same path that many shows and movies before it already has. And it is not as funny as it thinks it is. All that tides over to a large extent because of the two charming leads may not have convinced us that they would make good parents by the end. But we are sold on the fact that they might be there by each other’s side kicking and dragging each other to the finish line.
We hope you're enjoying BRWC. You should check us out on our social channels, subscribe to our newsletter, and tell your friends. BRWC is short for battleroyalewithcheese.