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On the Up

FROM THE prolific pen of BOB (THE GOOD LIFE/GET SOME IN/EVER DECREASING CIRCLES) LARBEY, ON THE UP was a pretty typical BBC sitcom, albeit one broadcast at the fag end of the Corporation’s love for conventional 2.4 set ups. Here the sit involved rough-diamond-made-good Tony (DENNIS WATERMAN) and his various and tedious run-ins with “‘er indoors”, namely his wife Ruth, (JUDY BUXTON). All the while sidekick extraordinaires SAM KELLY and JOAN SIMS were wasting their immaculate comedy timing on material that was never better than average. Sadly, ON THE UP was pretty much completely forgettable. It wasn’t even sufficiently of-its-time (unlike series such as THERE’S NO PLACE AT HOME or JOINT ACCOUNT) to latterly gain a retrospective museum-piece curiosity value. Eminently unmemorable.



  1. Paul Gatenby

    March 3, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Entirely unmemorable? Joan Sims’ blowsy dipsomaniac housekeeper Mrs Wembley had a catchphrase which my parents and their friends still repeat (“Just the one”) and Dennis Waterman sings the theme toon (“Maybe I will cry / Maybe I will beg / Maybe she’ll buy one straight off the peg”). So about 10 people still remember it.

  2. Richard16378

    July 21, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    In the later series the opening titles had a different theme, with no lyrics & I guess not written by Dennis Waterman.

    The sung version was still at the end, complete with the yodelled “I’m so al-o-w-o-ne” (hard to transcribe!)

  3. Glenn Aylett

    April 18, 2022 at 4:07 pm

    Dennis Waterman had tired of Minder by his final series in 1988 and felt he could take the role of Terry Mc Cann no further, but obviously Lahndan rough diamond roles appealed to Dennis Watwerman as he signed up for this BBC sitcom where he played another rough diamond character to follow on from Terry Mc Cann and George Carter. On The Up didn’t catch the public’s imagination like Waterman’s previous two roles, while Minder continued to do good business with a younger, more contemporary Minder to look after Arthur Daley.

  4. George White

    April 19, 2022 at 8:25 am

    He did try to break typecasting with Yorkshire TV’s Circle of Deceit – a telefilm that spawned a few sequels, where he was a hard-bitten, bearded (hence Den looking like Groundskeeper Willie) SAS man whose wife and androgynous child were killed in an IRA bombing on a German circus (hence a montage of crying clowns, acrobats falling into lames and thus whenever Den sees a mirrorball). In the first film, Den is sent to Belfast by intelligence chief Derek Jacobi (looking slightly like Malcolm McDowell for some reason), to impersonate a dead IRA man, and bond with his family (priest brother Ian McElhinney) and associates including local IRA kingpin Peter Vaughan and his peace activist daughter Clare Higgins.
    A bout of the usual Troublesploitation cliches, dodgy accents, Leeds playing Belast, the fact that we are supposed to think Vaughan is a baddie because he keeps ramed photos of (an elderly, President-era) De Valera and Padraig Pearse on his wall (something normal in Ireland of the era), and a ludicrous supposedly tragic ending where the SAS literally whisk Den away in a helicopter and Peter Vaughan takes a gun out to shoot down the copter, only or an SAS man to pull him down, the gun mid-fire shooting his daughter instead.
    Threeother films emerged, with Susan Jameson taking over from Sir Derek. One had Leo McKern as an old Soviet spymaster in Paris (played by Leeds), and some nonsense involving IRA men Lalor Roddy and Ian ‘the most sarcastic priest in Ireland’ Fitzgibbon smuggling bazookas into Britain through Peter ‘Bill Webster’ Armitage’s farm.

  5. Glenn Aylett

    April 23, 2022 at 12:21 pm

    @ George White, a major departure from what you’d expect from Waterman, who probably wanted to play someone who wasn’t a laddish Lahndan type for a change. Can’t remember this, but it sounds a bit like Harry’s Game, again using Leeds to resemble the mean streets of Belfast.

    Not acting related, but I do recall being in Sheffield in 1986 and Waterman, a reasonably good footballer in his spare time, playing in a testimonial game for some Sheffield United player. At the time he was in Lives And Loves Of A She Devil and on a sabbatical from Minder, which had gone on a break, and when he returned for the final series, Waterman seemed bored.

  6. George White

    April 25, 2022 at 9:37 am

    Yes, it’s very much Shakin’ Harry’s Game – Yorkshire seemed to like doing this kind of Troublesploitation -the notorious Shoot to Kill comes to mind, but they adapted another Gerald Seymour novel – the Glory Boys, at the time per minute the most expensive British TV show ever – starred Anthony Perkins (!) as an ageing British spy and Rod Steiger (in his third IRA-related thing after A Fistful of Dynamite and Hennessy) as the Israeli nuclear scientist targeted by an IRA man (played by actual Irish actor Aaron Harris) and PLO terrorist Famy (possibly Jewish Gary Brown), plus Joanna Lumley as the supposedly dowdy secretary. And Alfred Burke as the chief.
    NOt set in Belfast, but in London, Lebanon, France and Washington (most of the locations played by Leeds), it’s Professionals-esque but highly entertaining hokum with a nice ironic ending.

    And lots of Creamy goodness – old school Caramel bars, orange and brown WH Smith’s…

    Other ITV regions tried their hand at the same lark – IRA actioners with incongruous Hollywood stars bolted on. TVS alongside RTE and the Australian ABC did Act of Betrayal, starring Patrick Bergin and Lisa Harrow as an ex-IRA informer and his wife who move to Australia after Bergin informs on the blowing up of a London department store (hence burning animatronics), only to be chased by IRA-hired American hitman Elliot Gould (!)
    While Granada did Confessional, an adap of the Jack Higgins novel, one of the various sequels to the Eagle has Landed following a geriatric Liam Devlin, helped by Martin McGuinness (!), trailing a half-Russian protege who turns out to be a KGB super-assassin out to kill the Pope on his visit to England.
    However, the series changes Devlin to being a younger Boston Irishman played by Keith Carradine (not doing Sutherland’s Ulster-via-New Brunswick accent) and instead makes the KGB killer his best mate, an Oirish priest/Soviet sleeper played by Robert Lindsay. The Pope is Anthony QUayle, and McGuinness is now replaced by an older fictitious figure played by beloved Irish comic Niall Toibin.
    Only seen the trailer. It looks mental.

  7. Glenn Aylett

    April 25, 2022 at 7:28 pm

    While a sensitive subject, The Troubles did provide British television with some really good dramas. I do recall a series on Channel 4 that was co produced with RTE and mostly shot in the Republic called The Chase, where a British millionaire’s wife and daughter are kidnapped by the IRA, and he has to track them down. Never seen it since the eighties, same as the dramas George has mentioned again( the Aussie one with Elliott Gould was excellent).

  8. Richardpd

    April 26, 2022 at 5:34 pm

    Birmingham has also stood in for Belfast & vice versa over the years, as they have similar Victorian architecture.

  9. Sidney Balmoral James

    April 27, 2022 at 11:37 pm

    Let us not also forget the episode of Columbo, The Conspirators, in which the Lt. foils an IRA gun-running operation (big shame of this episode is it includes briefly the incomparable L.Q. Jones as a gun dealer, operating from a camper van dealership – and he would have been a much better chief villain than Clive Revill, who tells limericks, makes flatulent poetic observations, and plays the banjo – as presumably all provos did in those days.

  10. Glenn Aylett

    April 28, 2022 at 7:51 pm

    @ Sidney Balmoral James, I remember the Columbo episode with Clive Revill and his Irish accent was like something from a comedy show. To me, he will always be the cynical para pyschologist in The Legend Of Hell House who is crushed inside a chapel( a very underrated horror film once popular late at night in smaller ITV rgions).

  11. George White

    April 28, 2022 at 9:18 pm

    Yes, also has an Oirish character call TV guides ‘program logs’, as no Irish person has ever done.
    Revill’s character, Joe Devlin supposed to be vaguely Brendan Behan-esque.
    I like to think he had a terrible light ent show on Telly Eireann.
    LQ Jones is on the list of actors who were supporting characters in Columbo, but should have been the baddie – including Vincent Price, Roscoe Lee Browne, Thayer David and Patrick Macnee.

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