TRYING S4 Review: So You Still Want to Be a Parent?

Rafe Spall and Esther Smith star in a warm and witty British series, now streaming on Apple TV+.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
TRYING S4 Review: So You Still Want to Be a Parent?

What do you know? Six years later, it's still hard to be a parent.

Trying S4
Seasons 1-3 are now streaming, in their entirety. The first two episodes of Season 4 debut worldwide Wednesday, May 22, on Apple TV+. New episodes debut every Wednesday. I've seen all eight episodes of Season 4.

After not watching any multi-season show for a while, it's not necessarily easy to tune into a show's distinctive frequency.

Picking up six years after the events in Season 3, Trying finds married couple Jason (Rafe Spall) and Nikki (Esther Smith) still happy, and quite content with their two adopted children: teenage Princess (now played by Scarlett Rayner) and younger brother Tyler (now played by Cooper Turner). Everyone is happy, so of course conflicts are on their way.

The first episode begins on a somber note, with the death of Grandma Ross, which leaves her taciturn husband Vic Ross (Phil Davis) adrift, and that also throws off the show's balance a bit. To me, things felt askew, as I strained to remember how everyone is related to each other, and why things were different from what I remembered.

And then I realized that I have yet to watch Season 3! Although I intend to catch up as soon as possible, by a few minutes into Season 4, Episode 2, ignorance of the previous season did not keep me from relaxing into the rhythms and remembering how much I like these characters.

Andy Wolton created the series and writes the episodes, with co-writers on certain episodes. As I wrote in my original review back in 2021, he displays "a deft sense of humor that can easily expand into genuinely dramatic territory, and then easily navigate back to more traditional humorous regions. The dialogue is consistently, genuinely funny, and the characterizations feel very authentic."

That all remains true. Pushing events six years into the future, so that young Princess is now a teenager, is a brilliant move. Scarlett Rayner is quite good at capturing the emotions of a nearly-grown adopted woman who comes to realize that she harbors a desire to meet her birth mother, and that becomes an important story point through Season 4.

Princess still expresses strong teen emotions, though that's modified by her increasing maturity. She is becoming her own person, even if she's not quite sure what that means.

Younger brother Tyler has not yet entered the rebellious stage of adolescence, which leaves room for Jason to develop his parenting skills by forming a football team of same-age adopted children, since he believes that Tyler needs validation as an adopted child. This introduces another (literal) field of play for humor about parents who coach their children in sporting activities, sometimes rather ineptly.

The other two narrative strands that are developed throughout the course of the season revolve around Vic, now 77, who must figure out how to live without his beloved wife, and odd couple Scott (Darren Boyd) and Karen (Sian Brooke), who are now happily (?!) married with an unexpected young daughter, who doesn't talk much but always looks very, very darling. Scott is having a midlife crisis, and his means of dealing with that catch everyone by surprise.

The essence of the show is summed up in its title. Everyone from the lead characters down to the bit players and guest stars -- including Jim Broadbent in a very charming and endearing role in Episode 2 -- is clearly doing their best. They are not always successful, and sometimes they fail miserably.

Still, they keep trying, and they never take themselves too seriously. That makes for an altogether appealing and creatively successful show.

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Apple TV+Darren BoydEsther SmithPhil DavisRafe SpallScarlett RaynerSian Brooke

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