TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Trying TV Poster Image
Language, some drinking in too-cute adoption dramedy.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Proper weight and respect is given to parenthood and the desires of people to have and care for children, but these messages are undercut by cliched plotlines: a dad resentful about how much energy his kids absorb, a social worker making a surprise home visit. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters feel a bit stereotypical: Nikki is a manic pixie dream girl, Jason a case of arrested development. Social worker Penny rises above with a fully realized portrait of a character who is relatively minor. The cast boasts some diversity in terms of race and ethnicity, but most main characters are white and working/middle class. 


Violence is cartoonish and comic: Nikki wrestles a phone out of the grip of a man she thinks is ignoring his kids and throws it into a pond. 


Since the central focus of this narrative is a couple trying to conceive a baby, sex comes up a lot, often in discussions of the finer points of procreation. In the first scene of the show, Nikki and Jason have sex on a bus; they remain fully clothed but we see suggestive movements and sounds. 


Cursing and language includes "s--t," "prick," "sucks." Language is generally used for comic effect or emphasis, but there is some insulting language, like when a character criticizes the type of "man bun flip flop beard oil" types to be found in a hipster-y part of London. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink at bars and gatherings; one character makes a point of not driving when he's had three glasses of wine. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Trying is a series about a thirtysomething couple who decide to adopt a child together. Although there's little iffy content, the leads and subject matter is mature enough that teens are unlikely to be interested in watching. If they do, though, parents will find that language, sexual content, drinking, and violence is minimal. Although the series opens with the lead couple having sex on a municipal bus (because her ovulation window is closing), they both remain fully clothes and we just see kissing and suggestive movements. There's lots of other sex talk too, often related to conception and not graphic. Drinking is confined to scenes with characters imbibing at parties and bars. Language includes "s--t," "prick," and "sucks." Positive messages are evident in the way the show focuses on adoption as an important, fraught, and lengthy process, but are undercut somewhat by cliched jokes and plotlines. 

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What's the story?

Nikki (Esther Smith) and Jason (Rafe Spall) want to have a baby together and they've been TRYING for a while, but despite an expensive bout of IVF, they haven't had any luck getting pregnant. And so they start in on the long and difficult process of trying to adopt, with all its rules, sudden fees, nerve-wracking professional judgment, heartbreaking disappointments. Will they succeed in completing the family they desire? And will they make it through intact? With the help of their loving yet unpredictable family and friends and the sound advice of social worker Penny (Imelda Staunton), they just might. 

Is it any good?

This dramedy wins points for its unique focus on the many difficulties of the adoption process and its actors' chemistry, but it strains too hard to be charming to make it there most of the time. Things get off to a rocky start in Trying's first scene of its first episode, when Nikki suddenly discovers that it's a day later than she thought it was, and her "window" for conceiving after her ovulation is closing fast when they're inconveniently on a bus home from a bar. They're miles away, laments Nikki, when every hour matters. No matter: without removing a stitch of clothing, and disregarding the lone napping fellow bus passenger, they complete the task. It's funny, but it's a lot.

But this show is always doing stuff like that, when it's not doing things right. Nikki is an only slightly grown-up version of a manic pixie dream girl, and Jason is a merely marginally more mature iteration of a movie man-child, which we're clearly supposed to find cute but only fitfully do. Things do improve remarkably when Imelda Staunton shows up as a social worker who first appears to do a surprise inspection of Nikki and Jason's apartment (a hoary plotline we could have done without, but the results are undeniable). She reads as utterly true and positively delightful, daffy yet dead-eyed realistic about the slings and arrows of adoption and the children who need homes. Nikki and Jason need not pretend to be smooth, perfect people, she advises them in one wonderful scene: "That's not who the kids are. They don't grow up in houses with quinoa and rocking horses. You know, we rip them out of their lives and move them two miles away and it might as well be the other side of the world." At moments like this, Trying hits emotional heights that make it worthwhile. If only there were more moment like this in this show. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • How does Trying compare to other shows about family relationships and human connection? What does it do differently? 

  • How does the media portray sex and related themes? Is there a connection between the sexual content we see on TV and the decisions we make about having sex and protecting ourselves? Is this sex portrayed in Trying realistic? Is it attempting to be? 

  • What central message is the show sending about parenting in general? Can a person be flawed and still be a good parent? Is there such a thing as an "ideal" family?

TV details

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