Trying to do the right thing - the importance of Apple TV+’s returning series
Last week the BBC covered the story of a family whose teenage children contacted their birth family via social media, eventually severing all ties with their adoptive parents and dropping out of school. As a mother just two years into the adoptive process, the news haunted me.
Parenting brings with it all sorts of fears - as well as hopes - for the future. But the adoptive parenting journey is a singular experience. And that’s why Apple TV+’s Trying is as important as it is funny.
Written by Andy Wolton, an adoptee himself, Trying is Apple TV+’s first British scripted original, and one of The Independent’s Top 20 shows of 2020. Series 1 followed Jason and Nikki (Rafe Spall and Esther Smith) as they embarked on the adoption process following a failed attempt at IVF and learning that they can’t have a birth child of their own.
Wolton doesn’t spare the excruciating detail of the Four Stage Adoption Process. When the couple open their door to social worker Penny (Imelda Staunton) their lives go under a microscope. For me and my partner, it was like watching our lives played back to us: did we have sex / use porn / have a religion? What would we do with our dog if a child didn’t like it? Only our social worker was no Imelda Staunton.
I cringed in sympathy watching Nikki trying to compete with the other prospective adopters - sitting at the front of the training classes, reading all the books, offering to be first in the role plays. Just like Jason and Nikki, we measured ourselves against the other parents, feeling less prepared, less successful, and realising just how dysfunctional our family was.
Yet, in all this messy complexity, Trying is about people who don’t give up. “We’ve only got to be better than the previous parents” Nikki and Jason reassure themselves.
It’s this ability to make light of the dark that is the driving force of the series. Adoption is tragic. At the heart of it is profound loss, grief and trauma. Children removed from their birth mothers; adoptive parents going before a panel of professionals to decide the fate of their parenting dreams. A friend messaged me asking if the Adoption Panel scene in the Season 1 finale was really true to life. It was. And that’s why I’m so glad this series exists: to reveal the absurdity of this journey and to laugh at it.
In March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, there were over 80,000 children in the care of local authorities. Only 3,440 children were adopted last year, but by December, Sky News reported a huge increase in adoption enquiries, with traffic on the Adoption UK website up 63%. One couple interviewed said “I think it’s re-evaluated what’s important in life. You know, family is ultimately the most important thing.”
Jason and Nikki have been forced to contemplate what, exactly, parenting and family is. Through their eyes, we appraise the characters around them, all making difficult choices, sometimes failing, but still keeping going. Wolton treats them all with compassion. They’re basically good people doing their best.
As Series 2 begins tonight on Apple TV+, we know Jason and Nikki are approved to adopt. Stage 3 of the adoption process will find them trying to ‘match’ with a child. I know from experience this is going to be an emotional rollercoaster, but I also know the characters will fill it with laughs. As my family emerges - fragile but intact - from the pandemic, and I wonder how everyone else has seemingly managed to learn a language or a new craft skill, I’ll think about Nikki and Jason struggling to get by, contemplating a future where, “whatever happens, we’ll be messing it up together.”
Apple TV+ has confirmed series 3, ready for 2022. If all goes to plan we should see Nikki and Jason become parents. And that, I know only too well, is when the really difficult stuff begins. I can’t wait.
Sarah Caddy, Head of Production