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Dennis Waterman had a winning formula that endeared him to the British public. He often sang a show's theme tune, played a role with likable affability and his supporting cast are usually comprised of familiar faces from film comedy classics. On The Up is no exception, Waterman (Tony) is joined by the experienced comedy favourite Sam Kelly and the sorely missed, wonderful, late First Lady of Carry On films Joan Sims.
It is perhaps the personal touches that made this show a success for the BBC. Calling the driver Sam and having namesake Kelly play him worked well for the mostly straight-faced banter between him and Tony. It is Sims however that adds a level of sentiment that is simply heart wrenching. Having endured much personal tragedy in her life, Sims began drinking during the 1980's until it hospitalised her and she rehabilitated. On The Up sees her playing a charming housekeeper (Mrs. Wembley) who is kept company at the end of her weary day by a glass of sherry while she sits quietly in the dark alone (until joined by Tony of course). A fitting catchphrase and in-joke was coined with her 'Just the one!' drinking policy, only to hear back 'Just the one Mrs. Wembley'. The extremely versatile actress had a diverse, impressive and extensive body of work, but it is this sitcom that I remember as a suitable commentary on a much sadder period in her life.
On The Up was a light and impossibly inoffensive comedy that ran only for an enjoyable couple of series. The jokes weren't bad, the wife was cold, the daughter wayward and the hired help sassy. Simple and effective. Another case of 'they don't make them like they used to' perhaps.
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