For Jo Joyner, formerly Tanya in EastEnders, Sky Living's Trying Again is definitely a step up. In the new series, which started last night, she gets to flex her comedic muscles and play the unfaithful partner for a change.
Her character Meg is a warm, witty instantly likable woman who cheated on her long-term boyfriend Matt, but now wants to make another go of it. For Chris Addison, who plays Matt, Trying Again offers only a slightly less interesting variation on the role he’s most famous for. Ollie Reader from The Thick of It was a wimp, but an intriguingly snarky one. Matt is just a bit of a wimp.
Addison only has himself to blame, since he co-wrote the script with his old Thick of It colleague Simon Blackwell. It’s not short of well-honed gags (the pay-off at the end of this episode was particularly satisfying), but the subject matter of boring jobs and unhappy relationships came off as unintentionally depressing. Meg and Matt’s life in the Cumbrian town of Kendal is picturesque but poky. The only job available to unemployed Meg is at the same doctor’s surgery where she had her affair, while the local couples counsellor is so rubbish she can’t even say the word “affair”.
Trying Again does deserve points for effort. Every show that takes a fresh look at the much-debased, once-great romcom genre is a welcome addition to the TV schedules. Still, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that what these characters really need is a move to the nearest big city, a career development loan and an online dating subscription. Unfortunately, such a no-nonsense solution doesn’t lend itself to an eight-part series.